How much energy does Alaska produce?


OK, I'm still confused by this oft-quoted figure from the McCain/Palin campaign that "[Alaska] produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." (Gibson interview with Palin, September 11, 2008, as noted on The Times). From my calculations, even when only Oil is taken into account, that number is off by quite a bit.

According to the US EIA Crude Oil Production , for 2007 the total US production in millions of barrels was 1,848. Alaska's production accounted for 263.6 million--including offshore production of 91.8 million (for a total of 14.2%). Texas, by the way, totals 396 million, California 216 million, and Wyoming 54 million.

According to the Alaska Department of Revenue, Alaska North Slope (ANS) production is running about 680,000 bbl/day in September (less earlier in the summer). The EIA's graphs for Alaska put it less than 1 million bbl/day. Assuming that we give Alaska the benefit of the doubt, they might have 20% of the production of oil in the US, but it's more likely to be close to 15-18%.

Oh, and if you think Natural Gas is going to make up for this... think again. According to the EIA, the Natural Gas Production (for energy, not for injection into oil wells to bring up oil) of Alaska is about 30 billion cubic feet... of the 1.78 trillion cubic feet produced for marketing in the US.

Keeping track? That's about 1.6% of the Natural Gas.

Coal? Really? OK, there's a little production in Alaska--381 thousand short tons in the first quarter of 2008. Total US Production was 289 million short tons in that same period across the US (the state of Wyoming accounting for 115.7 million of those, or 40%--it also produced 189 billion cubic feet of Natural Gas or about 10% of that source).

How about some renewables? There must be some in Alaska. EIA figures from 2005 (most recent available that I could find) show that Alaska produces 1.5 million megawatt hours (mostly from hydro) per year. This against 357 million megawatt hours from the country (.4%).

Energy Production

Now, if we want to talk total US Energy production, we're looking at something completely different. I'm not sure I can find the data in Nuclear Power Production:Of the 257 million megawatt hours of electricity generated using nuclear plants in the first 4 months of the year, Alaska generated 0. Illinois, by the way, was the highest generation, with 29.9 million megawatt hours.

According to ConvertUnits.com, we can make some calculations:Assuming (to the benefit of Alaska) that 1 barrel of oil yields 1 gallon of automotive fuel, that barrel creates 1.83 megawatt hours.

1.83 * 263.6 million barrels = 482.4 million megawatt hours per year.

Assuming 8.1 megawatt hours per tonne of coal.

8.1 * 381 thousand tonnes/qtr = 3.086 million megawatt hours per qtr or about 12.4 million megawatt hours per year.

Assuming .0302 megawatt hours per hundred cubic feet of natural gas or 302 thousand megawatt hours per billion cubic feet of natural gas.

0.302 * 30 billion cubic feet/yr = 9 million megawatt hours per year.

To sum up, in millions of megawatt hours:

Energy source Alaska US Percentage
Oil 482.4 3,326 14.5%
Coal 12.4 9,363 0.1%
Natural Gas 9 537.6 1.6%
Renewables 1.5 357 0.4%
Nuclear 0 1,071 0%
Total 506.3 14,654.6 3.45%

Just for comparison purposes... Wyoming's natural gas is 57 million megawatt hours, its coal is 937, and oil production of 98 million add to 1,092 million megawatt hours, or a bit over 7%... all from a state that has 515,004 people vs. 670,053 in Alaska, so they're not even tops in per capita energy production...

Ed Note: Thanks to the folks at FactCheck.org for noting that I'd double- counted offshore production