Oil, natural gas production in Michigan plummeting

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s crude oil production dropped over the past quarter-century while demand and production of renewable energy grew, U.S. Energy Department data shows.
Production dropped because reserves are exhausted, said Steven Pueppke, director of the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and the Office of Biobased Technologies at Michigan State University.
“It’s possible to develop drilling techniques to produce more oil, but it’s not easy,” he said.
Bruce Dale, an MSU chemical engineering and materials science professor, said the same pattern occurs in all oil-producing regions.
“We find easy oil first, and produce it,” he said. “Then it gets harder and harder to find and produce oil, so output declines.
“We have to make a necessary transition to renewable energies,” Dale said. “We simply cannot afford to stay in the fossil fuel hole we are now in.”
Historically, most of the state’s energy has come from fossil fuels – petroleum, natural gas, coal and some nuclear energy. Currently, these four sources provide 93 percent of its power.
Michigan has more natural gas reserves than any other Great Lakes state, but the limited supply of it and other fossil fuels is a concern. Records show a significant drop in fossil fuel production over the past three decades, particularly crude oil.
For example, crude oil accounted for nearly 30 percent of energy produced in Michigan in the 1980s but is now only 4 percent.
And production of crude oil in Michigan dropped by 85 percent between 1980 and 2007, the most recent year for which data is available.
The five counties with the most oil production are: Calhoun, Manistee, Otsego, Grand Traverse and Crawford, according to the Michigan Oil & Gas Producers Education Foundation’s 2009 data.
Otsego County produced the greatest amount of natural gas between January and September 2009, followed by Montmorency, Antrim, Alpena and Oscoda counties.
According to the Energy Department, Great Lakes states with oil reserves – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania – showed an average 54 percent drop, higher than the national average during the same period
Meanwhile, renewable energy production and use in Michigan has gradually risen over the last several years, the data shows.
Between 2003 and 2007, for example, biofuels production rose 127 percent and consumption jumped 144 percent. Biofuels are made from organic material produced by plants, animals or microorganisms, such as wood, waste, hydrogen gas and alcohol fuels. Common biofuels include ethanol and biodiesel.
There’s a clearly rising trend of renewable energy use and production, said Stanley Pruss, director of the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG).
“Our investment and attitude toward renewable energy are expected to continue building up,” Pruss said.
Michigan’s growth in renewable energy production resulted from more resources and investment, said Jennifer Alvarado, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association in Dimondale.
“It means understanding a climate of fossil fuels, as well as education and outreach,” said Alvarado. “People became interested in purchasing renewable energy such as a solar panel and energy-efficient cars. The number of households equipped with solar panels rose to 2,500 in three and a half years.”
Dale, the MSU professor, said renewable energy is receiving increased attention as an alternative to traditional sources.
“The technologies for renewable energy keep improving and are now cost-competitive in many applications,” said Dale. “Policies and technologies are combining to allow renewable energies into new markets.”
In 2008, Michigan adopted a “renewable energy portfolio” standard that will require at least 10 percent of its power to come from renewable sources by 2015, according to DELEG.
Under that law, energy providers must meet the standard through renewable energy generation, renewable energy credits and “energy optimization” techniques. Potential sources are biofuels, solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal and energy, as well as energy generated from landfill gases.
Alvarado said the state should do more.
“There are other Great Lakes states doing better than Michigan,” she said. “In Illinois, Minnesota, New York and Ohio, people would get about 25 percent of energy from wind by 2025.”
In Illinois, 75 percent of the electricity used to meet that state’s 25 percent renewable standard must come from wind, according to the Department of Energy. In Ohio, at least half of the standard, equivalent to 12.5 percent, of electricity sold, must be generated by wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal or biomass. Minnesota and New York also enacted 25 percent standards for 2025 and 2013. Pennsylvania set an 18.5 percent target for 2020.
Pueppke of the Office of Bio-based Technologies said public policy is important in advocating renewable energy production and reducing fossil fuel use.
“Other than promoting power standards, zoning and planning could prevent sprawl, so people don’t have to commute far,” he said. “It’s more of public policy, so it’s more difficult but worth trying.”
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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