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A Contest We’d Like to See the US Lose

China may soon overtake the US as the world’s leading oil importer, and Washington couldn’t be happier. Due in large part to the shale gas revolution, America is becoming less dependent on foreign oil; in January, crude oil imports were down 8 percent from August. China, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction, with its December crude oil imports up 8 percent from a year prior. The WSJ reports:

“With the shale boom in the (U.S.) threatening to drastically reduce America’s oil-import needs, China is expected to take its place in the number one spot,” OPEC said in a report posted on its website this week….

The group quoted analysis saying China’s oil imports could top 6 million barrels a day this year, while the Washington-based Energy Information Administration, or EIA, foresees net U.S. oil imports could fall below that level in 2014.

The OPEC countries have been eying the shale energy boom with considerable worry. American demand means a lot to Gulf producers, and the more shale we have, the less we need their oil. But China’s growing energy need is allaying many of those fears. On Monday, the Saudi oil minister sounded an optimistic note: “More companies and nations are competing for their slice of the energy pie, that’s true. But the pie is getting bigger and there is enough to go around.”

China isn’t oblivious to this and is looking to develop its own considerable shale resources, but a number of geological and technical barriers are preventing it from matching American success. For that, petrostates around the world are grateful.

Shale resources have profoundly changed the global energy picture. For the moment, the US remains the biggest winner.

[Oil barrel image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

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  • Fred

    Good for another reason. I can’t see the Chinese being as reticent as we are about keeping order among those rabid barbarians.

  • Be careful what you wish for. If they are spending dollars on oil they’ll have fewer to loan America. And ending our dependence on OPEC for oil just to replace it with dependence on OPEC for loans would be an overall bad thing.

  • Christopher Anderson

    I see China’s pipelines and shale gas reserves and worry. China is already pretty aggressive towards South East Asia and Japan. If the Party doesn’t have to worry about oil shipments, I could easily see them tempted to play it more aggressive still.

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