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The United States of Energy May 7, 2013

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Where’s Uranium?

The United States of Energy – Blog About Infographics and Data Visualization

This is a very compelling visual presentation of the U.S. energy resources, as well as some interesting statistics about production and consumption.  Well researched and well put together.

However, from a mining perspective, there is an interesting discontinuity in the selection of resources.  The map clearly outlines oil, gas, and coal reserves, with the implicit knowledge that these are raw materials that must be processed in order to be useful.

Similarly, wind, geothermal, and solar are shown in areas where they are most likely to be efficiently produced.  In a sense, they are like the reserves of more familiar resources.

Hydro is unique, but only in the sense that a dam is required, so the discrete facility seems an appropriate metric.  One could theoretically map individual rivers based on their flows and gradients, but that would become unwieldy.  I find the map characterizes this resource well.

But what about nuclear?  Interestingly, the chart’s authors have chosen to map nuclear power plants rather than the mineral deposits that fuel them.  Just like oil, coal, and gas are shipped to a variety of refineries for downstream processing, nuclear fuels move across state lines as well.  But refineries and coal- and gas-fired power plants aren’t shown on the map – nor should they be.  They don’t represent resources, just links in the chain between the raw fuel and the end user.  Interesting statistics perhaps, but a different topic.

If the authors intend to show the energy resources available in the U.S., uranium reserves are an important part of the discussion.  We often think of oil drilling as being distinct from mining, not only in form, but in product.  Generally, mining consumes energy from other sources to produce non-energy products.  In the case of nuclear fuels – as with coal – mining plays an equally important role and the accompanying resources represent important aspects of our energy policy.