Natural resources, energy and environment
The United States is rich in minerals, forests and water, and is a leading producer of several important metals. The country is the world’s largest producer of natural gas and oil, and among the largest also in terms of coal. Growing oil and gas extraction from shale contributes to the United States being on its way to becoming self-sufficient again on energy.
The energy sector in the United States has been dominated by fossil fuels oil, natural gas and coal for over 100 years. In recent years, energy production has changed: oil production has increased after a long decline and natural gas production has reached record levels. Coal extraction has decreased since 2008, partly because natural gas partly replaced coal in the production of electricity. Renewable sources such as wind and hydropower have increased and, like nuclear power, account for around a tenth of both energy production and consumption.
- COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by United States with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
Oil is extracted in 31 states and in offshore waters, not least in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas alone accounts for a third of oil recovery and also for most of its natural gas. After reaching a peak in 1970, oil production dropped for several decades. Relatively low and stable oil prices on the world market contributed to growing imports, not least from the Middle East. From 2009, recovery began to increase again, primarily in Texas and North Dakota. Behind the upswing lay new drilling technology and production methods that enable extraction of oil – and natural gas – from shale by fracking. Crude oil production is back to the same level as 1970 and the US is now the world’s largest oil producer. About half of the oil, like the gas, is extracted from shale.
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The increased recovery faces criticism because it involves continued investment in fossil fuels, which causes greenhouse gas emissions. The fracking itself also has negative environmental consequences such as air, water and soil pollution.
Coal is mainly extracted in Wyoming and in a belt from Illinois to Pennsylvania. The United States has the largest coal resources in the world, the country is the third largest coal producer and also a major coal exporter.
Large iron ore deposits are found around the Great Lakes, mainly at Lake Superior. Lead is mined mainly in southern Missouri and zinc is found in parts of the Rocky Mountains. Copper deposits in primarily the states of Utah, Montana, Arizona and New Mexico make the United States a major producer of copper ore. The United States is also a leading producer of phosphate, sulfur, alloy metal molybdenum and aluminum and is one of the largest gold miners.
The United States has the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emissions, after China. Calculated per inhabitant, the US is in first place. The air pollution from motor vehicles, industries and power plants is large. Political opposition was long overdue against binding regulations to reduce emissions.
However, Barack Obama (2009–2017) ran an active environmental policy and took a number of measures to protect the environment. He presented an environmental plan with three focus areas: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing for impacts such as rising sea levels and temperatures, and making the United States a global leader in efforts to stem climate change.
When Republican opposition put a stop to legislation on national emission limits, Obama bypassed Congress and passed measures through directives to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a historic agreement with China, in 2014, Obama made pledges to reduce US emissions levels. Ahead of the UN Climate Summit in Paris 2015, a plan to reduce emissions by 32 percent was presented by 2030, from the 2005 level. This would be achieved, for example, through a transition to renewable energy sources. The plan included emission targets for all the US states, which would come up with proposals on how these targets would be achieved. But the climate plan was brought before the court and the Supreme Court decided that the plan should be postponed until the legal dispute had been resolved.
After taking office in January 2017, Trump quickly took steps to tear up both the emissions plan and most of the other environmental regulations that Obama launched, including a water conservation law. Trump does not say he believes in human climate impact and has cut funding for both environmental bodies and climate research. He has decided that the United States should abandon the Paris Agreement aimed at halting the rise in temperature in the world and which all other countries in the world have signed. The message has been condemned by many world leaders and several states in the US have announced that they are forming their own “climate pact”. As the formal process of leaving the agreement takes time, US withdrawal cannot be completed until November 4, 2020 – which happens to be the day after the next US presidential election. Depending on who wins the election, the question may come in a new light.
FACTS – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
6,790 kilos of oil equivalent (2015)
Electricity consumption per person
12973 kWh, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
5 254 279 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
16.5 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
8.7 percent (2015)
Turbulence around North Korean film
The federal police FBI appoints North Korea as responsible for a data breach at the film company Sony Pictures in November. The background is suspected to have been a movie, The Interview, which is about a fictional murder of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Sony Pictures has decided to withdraw the film after threats, but the decision is changed following criticism from, among others, President Obama. When the movie goes to some movie theaters and is released online it will in just a few days be Sony’s most downloaded movie to date.
Relations resume with Cuba
President Obama unexpectedly announces that the United States will re-establish official relations with Cuba that have been down for over half a century (see Modern History). The Cuban regime has promised to release some 50 political prisoners in the deal, preceded by 18 months of secret talks between the countries. According to Obama, the policies the United States has brought against Cuba are outdated and it has led to no results. As a result of the normalized, prisoners exchange. Two Americans are released by Cuba after being jailed for five years and 20 years, respectively, while the United States releases three Cubans.
Brutal methods during war on terror
The Senate Intelligence Committee releases report on the intelligence service’s CIA interrogation methods during George W Bush’s war on terror. The report shows that the methods have been far more brutal than previously stated.
Protests following new police shooting
A New York criminal jury decides not to prosecute a police officer who killed an unarmed black man on Staten Island in July. The ruling comes shortly after the similar decision in Missouri in November and leads to an infected debate and widespread protest action against what is perceived as police violence against African Americans in particular.
New crawlers in Ferguson
A prosecution jury decides that the white policeman who killed a black teenager in Ferguson outside Saint Louis should not be prosecuted (see August 2014). After the message, violent violence erupts in Ferguson. The Governor of Missouri is deploying the National Guard to stop the violence. The unrest is reported to have spread to other cities in the United States as well.
New immigration legislation
President Obama is pushing for a reform of immigration legislation that will make it easier for the paperless to obtain a residence permit. The reform package gives, among other things, parents who have children who are American citizens or have a residence permit in the country the right to work and not have to be deported. Nearly 5 million migrants who are in the country illegally are estimated to be affected by the reform. The program is called Dapa (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), and extends the Daca program (see June 2012). During the reform, Obama is once again using his right as president to directly decide on measures without congressional approval – so-called executive orders.
Historical climate agreement
After a meeting between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in Beijing, the two presidents announce a deal that will not allow China’s emissions to increase after 2030, while the United States aims to reduce US emissions levels by 26-28 percent by 2025, compared with levels. in 2005.
Republicans win the Senate
In the Nov. 4 congressional election, Republicans who are expecting control also take control of the Senate. The party wins 24 of the 36 senate seats at stake, an increase of nine seats. The result will be 54 Republican senators against 44 Democrats (as well as two independents who usually vote with the Democrats). Republicans are also strengthening their majority in the House of Representatives. The party increases by 13 seats and thus has a total of 247 against 188 for the Democrats.
Attack on IS also in Syria
President Obama presents his strategy to fight the Islamic State (IS) extremist Islamist movement. For the first time, US bombings can now also be launched against targets in Syria, while efforts to increase IS in Iraq will be expanded (see Iraq: Calendar and Syria: Calendar). A few days later, Congress approves Obama’s plan to give US support to rebels in Syria fighting IS. Shortly thereafter, the United States, together with several Arab states, launches air strikes against IS-related attacks in Syria (see Syria: Calendar).
Riot after police shooting in Missouri
A black unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, is shot dead by a police officer in a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri. The shooting of death leads to rioting for several nights in the suburb of Ferguson where black Americans clash with police. The case breathes new life into the debate about racism that arose after the shooting of Trayvon Martin (see February 2012). A nighttime curfew is temporarily introduced and Missouri’s governor calls on the state’s National Guard, a military alliance with volunteer soldiers, to help deal with the unrest. The state of emergency is proclaimed by the Missouri governor and is due in September.
Air attack against IS in Iraq
President Obama gives the go-ahead for aerial bombings against Islamic State (IS) positions in northern Iraq. The goal is partly to protect US personnel from IS attacks and partly to stop persecution of religious minorities that may lead to genocide (see Iraq: Calendar). It is the United States’ first offensive effort in Iraq since the ground troops were withdrawn from it in 2011. During the year, IS has advanced and gained control of large parts of mainly northern Iraq.
The House of Representatives sues Obama
The House of Representatives in the Republican House votes on a proposal to sue President Barack Obama for violating his constitutional powers. The reason for the action is that Obama, through a so-called enforcement order, has extended a time limit linked to the major health insurance reform that the republics oppose. Critics accuse Obama of issuing far too many enforcement orders to get around the deadlock on sensitive issues in Congress. Obama dismisses the allegations as baseless and believes the trial is a political trick ahead of the November congressional elections.
Criticism of Russian robot test
The United States accuses Russia of trying to shoot down a medium-range robot, thereby breaking the INF agreement that was concluded in 1987, which regulates the ownership and management of medium-range robots. When the test shooting should have taken place is unclear. Information on Russian test shootings has appeared before, but this is the first time the US government has publicly issued such a charge.
Stricter sanctions on Russia
The US is tightening its financial sanctions against Russia on the grounds that the Russian leadership has failed to fulfill its promises to curb the conflict in eastern Ukraine. For the first time, the US sanctions specifically target important parts of the Russian economy, especially the financial and energy sectors and the weapons industry. A number of large corporations, several with close ties to President Putin in person, are barred from taking long-term loans in the US financial market. Sanctions are also directed at the self-proclaimed Ukrainian “People’s Republics” Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia accuses the US of “extortion” and President Putin says the sanctions for US-Russian relations into a “dead end”.
Germany expects CIA chief
The already strained relations with Germany (see October 2013) take a new turn when an employee of the German intelligence service is arrested and accused of having sold hundreds of documents to the CIA. The spy deal leads to the CIA boss in Germany being asked to leave the country, which in turn causes sour comments from the White House. Later in the month, however, the countries apply a more conciliatory tone among themselves and emphasize their strong friendships.
Soldiers to Iraq
President Obama promises to send 300 US troops to Iraq to help the Baghdad regime fight the militant Islamist movement Isis, which is making major advances in the country. At the end of the month, the first of the specially trained soldiers arrive in Baghdad.
Soldier released in Afghanistan
An American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held in Taliban captivity in Afghanistan is released in exchange for five Taliban from the Guantánamo Prison. Bergdahl, who was subjected to torture and grievous hardship for five years, is later charged in the United States for deserting before he was jailed, but eventually escapes prison.
Prosecution against Chinese military
A Pennsylvania court is prosecuting five officers in China’s Army (PLA). They are charged with financial cyber crime and must have stolen secret documents from five US companies and one trade union. China rejects the allegations and claims that the country has never been involved in cybercrime.
Sanctions against Russia after Ukraine crisis
President Obama condemns Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the involvement in the Crimean peninsula (read more in Ukraine: Calendar). The US is imposing sanctions on high-ranking people within the Russian government and parliament, as well as against separatist leaders in Crimea.
Raise of loan ceiling
The House of Representatives voted in favor of raising the limit for US government debt just before the ceiling would have been reached by the end of February. Attempts by leading Republicans in the House of Representatives to condone the rise in the debt ceiling with demands for countermeasures from Democrats and Obama have then failed. Such proposals have not been able to get enough support from Republican members. A day later, the Senate also approves the increase.
Changed agricultural and food aid
Both congresses have finally approved a bill on food aid for the poor (food stamps) and the design of the agricultural aid. It has taken over two years for the law to pass, partly because of disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over how much food aid to the poor would be cut. With regard to support for agriculture, there is a shift from direct contributions to farmers to insurance that compensates for price reductions or poor harvesting.
Obama’s speech to the nation
Let 2014 be a year of action, President Obama says in his annual speech to the nation and addresses the cooperative Republicans in Congress. At the same time, he is clear that he will not hesitate to act himself based on his powers as president if Congress cannot agree. Thus, Obama has already, through its executive power, ordered that the minimum compensation for companies hired by federal authorities be increased by 40 percent.
Criticism against mass surveillance
An Independent Federal Monitoring Agency (Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board) publishes a report on the NSA’s mass gathering program for Americans’ mobile calls. It is argued that the program may conflict with the Constitution and that it violates private integrity and believes it must be terminated. President Obama himself has proposed restrictions on the collection of data from mobile calls.
Congress clubs a new budget for federal spending over the next two years. Some adjustments and clarifications on the distribution of money have been made by the agreement adopted last month.