International Energy Policy

International Energy Policy

International Energy Policy
The aim of this paper us to use the SWOT analytical tool to critically discuss the potentials and impact of the exploration of unconventional oil and gas and one renewable energy source on the energy policy of a specific country. The paper discusses the issue in terms of situation, problem, solution and evaluation.
In the context, the country of choice is the U.S. and one renewable energy source on the policy of the U.S. is wind. The stance of the United States’ gas supply has advanced considerably over the years. On the other hand, the wind power industry of the United States has expanded significantly in the recent past. In fact, the 1980s heralded the advent of the modern wind industry of the U.S. Basically, this is as a result of the U.S. government partnering with the industry to develop the technology and facilitate big commercial wind turbines. The following is a SWOT analysis discusses the potentials and impact of the exploration of unconventional oil and gas, and wind energy.
One of the uses of a SWOT analysis is evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of, in this context, the two aforementioned industries. However, they are incorporated into a situation, problem, solution and evaluation to give structure.
Exploration of Unconventional Oil and Gas
The unconventional oil and gas reservoirs are found deep underground. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies are increasingly being embraced—there is rapid growth. It has taken the sector many years to reach the present exploration level. The quantity of proven gas reservoirs—mostly as a result of gas reservoirs discovered in shale formations— has grown by more than 70 percent since 2000 (Burwen and Flegal, 2013, 7). Exploration of unconventional oil and gas has a considerable impact on the economy of the U.S., investments, and employment (Carey, 2012).
Unconventional oil and gas can have different characteristics. They include extra heavy oil and oil sands. The technology required in the exploration of unconventional oil and gas is different from the one used in the exploration of conventional oil and gas. The technology used in the exploration of unconventional oil and gas uses considerable amounts of water.
U.S. is seeking to embrace more eco-friendly sources of energy. The U.S. is actively seeking alternatives for coal and unconventional oil and gas are seen as replacements. It is projected that the future prices for natural gas will be low, thereby, sufficiently meeting the domestic needs. Furthermore, there are “onshore shale reserves and resources; increase in oil production, and unconventional onshore projects” (USA Oil & Gas Report, 2012).
Wind Energy
The United States’ wind power sector has grown considerably over the past few years. In fact, the capacity produced by the country’s installations makes the country among the top three in the world—the rest are China and the European Union. By late 2013, the total output from the installations under construction totaled 12,000 MW. In general the wind power sector in the U.S. has grown so much that by late 2013, the total capacity from the installations was 61,108 MW (AWEA, 2014); the United States’ Department of Energy opines that wind power has the potential of supplying as much as 20 percent of U.S. as of 2030 (Gerhardt, 2013).
Exploration of Unconventional Oil and Gas
Ultra-deep wells are required to reach the unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. As such, advanced technology is required in the exploration. Lack of the relevant technology can hamper and make the exploration of unconventional oil and gas economical. Research and development initiatives for the sector require a lot of funds. It is projected that the coverage of gas unconventional gas basins not less than 31 states in the U.S. A large number of the employees are unskilled.
The viscosity of these extra heavy oils can be extreme and distributed in shale formations whose permeability is low. There is a myriad of problems associated with heavy oils. For instance, conventional methods cannot be used to produce, transport and/or transport them. Another example is the expensive and problematic process of pumping extra heavy oils from the reservoirs and refining; this is as a result of the high presence of sulfur and some metals among them vanadium and nickel.
The exploration of unconventional oil and gas leads to a lot of air and water pollution. Incidentally, the pollutants resulting from the production of unconventional oil and gas exceed the recommended levels. For instance, excessively high levels of elements such as formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide and benzene have been found in production sites adjacent to inhabited places (Macey et al., 2014). The other problem is that unconventional oil and gas are non-renewable sources of energy; despite their extensive coverage and projected longevity, their supply is limited.
Huge amounts of water are pumped into wells by the steam injector. Reduction of drinking water is a risk. Furthermore, water aquifers can be inadvertently contaminated. Trucks delivering the water to the production sites can destroy roads whose construction did not consider their axle weight.
Wind Energy
There are several problems associated with wind power installations in the U.S. The first problem is related to weather changes. The power output is relatively low compared to other sources and can vary because of inconsistent wind and fluctuating speed of the wind. Second, the installation is a costly undertaking. For instance, it cost approximately $ 1 billion to install approximately several thousands of turbines at Altmont Pass. Third, it has negative effects on life; for example, wildlife such as birds risk deaths from wind farms and people living nearby the installations claim to get Wind Turbine Syndrome. Other problems include insufficiently developed transmission infrastructure that can impede implementation and the selected sites; conflict with providers of renewable energy and people referred to NIMBY—it is an acronym for Not in My Back Yard, denoting proponents who support it as long as it is not constructed near their places; and opponents such as API/ANGA lobby groups that support other likeminded organizations in attacking the feasibility of wind energy.

Figure 1: The picture above shows an offshore wind farm in Rhode’s Island; Image courtesy of American Wind Energy Association
Exploration of Unconventional Oil and Gas
New technology: over the years technology has been developed, in order to reach and facilitate the exploration of unconventional gas reserves. The new technology enables the blasting of fossil fuels confined in shale formations. The most notable aspects of the technology are horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—surface mining and steam assisted gravity drainage— are used in the exploration of unconventional oil and gas. Horizontal drilling approaches the well at an arc after it has attained the desired depth of the reservoir. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of a huge quantity of water, chemicals and proppant into the rock formations, making them fracture and preventing resealing. Other processes used in the exploration are Fischer-Tropsch, Mobil, Bergius and Karrick processes.

Figure 2: The picture shows a typical process of exploration of unconventional oil and gas. Image courtesy of
Over the years, the federal government has supplemented the private sector’s innovation with “complementary input”—research and development programs such as specific technology demonstrations. The unskilled employees are employed as roughnecks—those doing hard manual labor. Despite being non-renewable, they are abundant reservoirs and other alternatives such as wind power and conventional oil and gas.

Figure 3: The image above shows American roughnecks at work. Image courtesy of Reuters
There are Federal Acts and Regulations that cushion the environment and public health from the effects of the exploration of unconventional oil and gas. They include the Clean Water Act which is mandated to regulate the pollutants discharged into water bodies—the Act stipulates that the operators of oil rigs get licensure for the hydraulic fracturing water they discharge.
Wind Energy
Fluctuation of wind speed which comes after the winds die is countered by diverting water around hydroelectric dams in areas bordering hydroelectric projects. The U.S. government works closely with the industry; for instance, the Department of Energy sponsoring the development of NASA wind turbines and offering tax rebates to the industry.
The U.S. government undertakes various measures in alleviating the impact of the installations on life. For instance, through its federal agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it came up and published with guidelines for designing and installing wind turbines to reduce deaths of birds and bats. Stopping the quest for wind power and make it not an answer to energy needs; and lobbying for sufficient distances between inhabited areas and industrial installations.
Exploration of Unconventional Oil and Gas
Technology development that enables the commercial development of unconventional gas reserves, notably shale gas reserves (Burwen and Flegal, 2013, 1). Horizontal drilling enables maximum contact with the productive section of the reservoir, thereby increasing the oil and gas produced by the well.
Surface mining and steam assisted gravity drainage are effective methods. Their use has enabled the production of unconventional oil to grow considerably in the recent past. For instance, in 2012, the daily amount of unconventional oil produced in the U.S. was two million barrels (Rampton, 2012). The third strength is extensive basins. Input from the federal government is important in that it minimizes the exploration risks of the private sector and boosts their diminishing research and development funds (Burwen and Flegal, 2013, 7). The sector provides more than 1.7 million jobs and its revenue contribution to the government is over $61 billion (Rampton, 2012).
The federal government might enact policies rolling back tax breaks, impose extra taxes on the oil and gas sector, and, through the Environmental Protection Agency consider regulating hydraulic fracturing technology used by the oil producers. Regulation: the federal government regulates the exploration of unconventional oil and gas. Incidentally, the federal government has a framework governing the exploration of unconventional oil and gas on federal land. The Federal Acts and Regulations on water usage have compelled the sector to resort to water recycling. An example is the upsurge of new water treatment plants in Philadelphia: entrepreneurs and other established organizations have come up with creative portable treatment plants and technologies in a bid to manage the waste water. For instance, Reserved Environmental Services, located near New Stanton, Philadelphia, treats “hundreds of thousands of gallons of shale gas wastewater daily…using a zero liquid discharge wastewater treatment plant” (University of Pittsburg, n.d.).
Wind Energy
Diverting water around hydroelectric waters to substitute the fluctuating winds cushions the system from overloading. The funding of the development of wind turbines by the U.S. government led to the pioneering of the present-day design of the multi-megawatt wind turbines in terms of aerodynamics, structure and acoustic engineering. Halting the quest for wind power as a solution to energy problems can be effective seeing that the installations cost the taxpayers dearly, are a concern to the public health and affect wildlife. Influencing legislation requires political connection and may not augur well for sector because the politics are regarded as murky waters.
To sum it up, wind energy and exploration of unconventional oil and gas can ably provide an ideal solution to the energy problems. Wind is a clean and renewable source of energy, making an ideal substitute for non-renewable sources, especially in the context of climate change. Though wind can sometimes be unpredictable, erratic and unreliable, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. On the other hand, exploration of unconventional oil and gas is fraught with problems. However, there is an insatiable demand for energy, and the exploration of unconventional oil and gas has economic and social benefits. As such, the problems brought about by the exploration can be perceived as collateral damage.

2012. SWOT Analysis. USA Oil & Gas Report, Q2 2012, Issue 2, 9
AWEA, 2014. AWEA U.S. Wind Industry. [Online] Available at: < [Accessed November 8, 2014].\
Burwen, J. & Flegal, J.2013. Unconventional Gas Exploration & Production. [Online] Available at: [Accessed November 8, 2014].
Carey, J.M., 2012. Gas Is Supercharging The U.S. Economy. [Online] December 13. Available at: [Accessed November 8, 2014].
Gerhardt, T., 2013. Wind Energy Gets a Boost off Fiscal Cliff Deal. [Online] Available at: [Accessed November 8, 2014].
Macey, G.P., Breech, R., Chernaik, M., Cox, C., Larson, D., Thomas, D., & Carpenter , D.O., 2014. Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: A community-based exploratory study. Environmental Health, 13:82.
Rampton, R., 2012. As unconventional U.S. oil, gas boom, so do jobs: report. Reuters, [Online] October 23. Available at: [Accessed November 8, 2014].
University of Pittsburg, n.d. Water and Unconventional Oil and Gas. Available at:[Accessed November 8, 2014].


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