North America, the new global energy giant

August 17, 2011

The Baker Institute’s Amy Myers Jaffe makes the point in an article at Foreign Policy:

For half a century, the global energy supply’s center of gravity has been the Middle East. This fact has had self-evidently enormous implications for the world we live in — and it’s about to change.

By the 2020s, the capital of energy will likely have shifted back to the Western Hemisphere, where it was prior to the ascendancy of Middle Eastern megasuppliers such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the 1960s. The reasons for this shift are partly technological and partly political. Geologists have long known that the Americas are home to plentiful hydrocarbons trapped in hard-to-reach offshore deposits, on-land shale rock, oil sands, and heavy oil formations. The U.S. endowment of unconventional oil is more than 2 trillion barrels, with another 2.4 trillion in Canada and 2 trillion-plus in South America — compared with conventional Middle Eastern and North African oil resources of 1.2 trillion. The problem was always how to unlock them economically.

But since the early 2000s, the energy industry has largely solved that problem. With the help of horizontal drilling and other innovations, shale gas production in the United States has skyrocketed from virtually nothing to 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply in less than a decade. By 2040, it could account for more than half of it. This tremendous change in volume has turned the conversation in the U.S. natural gas industry on its head; where Americans once fretted about meeting the country’s natural gas needs, they now worry about finding potential buyers for the country’s surplus.

And, shale gas is just the tip of the ice berg.  The same or similar technologies are about to make economic recovery of America’s vast reserves of shale oil possible – and our shale oil reserves areou about three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.  Finally, eventually and inexorably, clean coal-to-liquid processes that capture and sequester carbon will make the massive coal reserves of the US yet another strategic economic resource.

Of course, readers of EGP know that for years we have been predicting that (given the political will), the United States could become the worlds largest user, producer, and exporter of fossil fuels all at the same time.


One comment

  1. […] amount of oil and other fossil fuels in the Americas.  The world, of course, is awash in oil, and this has been known for years, despite the “Peak Oil” alarmism.  The world is entering the […]

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