Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cost of oil, revisited

Last time I looked, oil was priced at $22/barrel and we were importing 9.14 million barrels a day, which made up 20% of our trade deficit of $374 billion. We were actually importing more, but I hadn't counted the refined stuff. So it was actually 12.6 million barrels/day, so $101 billion or 27% of the trade deficit.

Now, as you know, the oil spot price is around $95/barrel, but $72/barrel is closer to the average price, and we are importing 12.2 million barrels a day (crude plus some refined products). The census bureau has nicely summarized the data here, which doesn't quite match the simple math I would do. For Dec 2006-Nov 2007, they see petroleum imports as $283 billion (35%) of a $813 billion deficit.


How much does a plug-in hybrid help?
  • Over a 20-year lifetime, the car is driven 250k miles.
  • It gets 75 mpg rather than 25 mpg.
  • It burns 80 barrels of oil rather than 320 (and burns a bunch of domestic coal instead).
  • It saves the importation of $15,500 of crude.
  • It saves the user $23,000 in gas.
  • It costs the user $5800 in electricity. (250k miles) / (3 miles/kw-hr) * (0.07 $/kw-hr)
My guess is that a practical plug-in hybrid chews up more electricity and gasoline than this, but it still seems pretty good. Unfortunately,
  • It's made by Toyota in Japan, and costs $25,000, so the net trade debt increases. At least the money is going to a responsible nation like Japan. I will cede that eventually Toyota will make most of these plug-in hybrids here, and so only the profits will go to Japan.
  • If 10 million cars in the U.S. were plug-in hybrids, it would reduce our oil imports by 282,000 barrels/day, or 2.3%.
That last point is a killer. It is just incredibly hard to replace oil.