Monday, December 05, 2011

Gas In The Tank For The Long Haul

The WSJ had a special energy section today with a lead article on how Big Oil Companies Are Shifting Their Focus Back to the West (sub req):

Driving the change is the boom in unconventionals—the tough kinds of hydrocarbons like shale gas and oil sands that were once considered too difficult and expensive to extract and are now being exploited on an unprecedented scale from Australia to Canada.

The U.S. is at the forefront of the unconventionals revolution. By 2020, shale sources will make up about a third of total U.S. oil and gas production, according to PFC Energy, a Washington-based consultancy. By that time, the U.S. will be the top global oil and gas producer, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia, PFC predicts.

That could have far-reaching ramifications for the politics of oil, potentially shifting power away from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries toward the Western hemisphere. With more crude being produced in North America, there's less likelihood of Middle Eastern politics causing supply shocks that drive up gasoline prices. Consumers could also benefit from lower electricity prices, as power plants switch from coal to cheap and plentiful natural gas.

Got that? In less than a decade, the United States will become the world's largest energy supplier. Besides the ones listed in the article, this change will also have even larger global political ramifications. Those who predict that our best days are behind and that the days of the United States as a military and economic superpower are numbered have more than likely not accounted for what this energy boom will mean.

If-and I realize it's a big one-we can get our fiscal house in the order in the next few years, there is no reason that the United States should not continue to lead the world economically for years to come. We definitely will have the energy to do it. The question is do we have the will?