The U.S. could become the largest producer of oil this year, seven years earlier than expected, a recently published BP report predicts. In less than 20 years, it will be 99 percent self-sufficient in net energy. We’ve read the tea leaves, and they foretell a new world order:
Techniques such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—have redrawn North America’s energy landscape, unlocking vast reserves of shale gas that were long thought uneconomic. The shale boom has fueled a near-20 per cent rise in US gas production over the past five years.
Overall, US oil production rose by 760,000 b/d last year—the largest annual increase since crude oil started to be pumped commercially in the US in 1859. BP said the US will overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest oil producer this year, on the back of higher tight oil and biofuels production and expected cuts in Opec supply.
Prior to the BP report, it was thought that the U.S. would lead oil production only by 2020. The fact that we’re already there is a reflection of the rapid pace of the shale energy boom.
We are now speeding into the arms of a world that has a lot going for it compared to the old one. The American economy could soon be sitting pretty on a heap of new energy industry jobs and on the new revenues that will inevitably flow from natural gas exports.
As other countries begin to access their own sizable shale energy reserves, Russia and the Gulf region will lose their leverage over geopolitics. A new, more balanced world order will emerge, with the U.S. at its helm.
Greens will even be able to rest easier, as shale oil and gas are both much friendlier for the environment than coal.
Still, there is no “happily ever after.” There will be pitfalls, but the pitfalls of a generally wealthier, calmer, and greener globe are the kinds of challenges we like to see.