Sep 27, 2011 2:19 PM GMT
A boom that's creating jobs that some environmentalists couldn't be less happy with - though there are days when I wonder if they want jobs that fuel any form of consumption.
Two years ago, America was importing about two thirds of its oil. Today, according to the Energy Information Administration, it imports less than half. And by 2017, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts the US could be poised to pass Saudi Arabia and overtake Russia as the world's largest oil producer.
Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice University says in the next decade, new oil in the US, Canada and South America could change the center of gravity of the entire global energy supply.
"Some are now saying, in five or 10 years' time, we're a major oil-producing region, where our production is going up," she says.
The US, Jaffe says, could have 2 trillion barrels of oil waiting to be drilled. South America could hold another 2 trillion. And Canada? 2.4 trillion. That's compared to just 1.2 trillion in the Middle East and north Africa.
Jaffe says those new oil reserves, combined with growing turmoil in the Middle East, will "absolutely propel more and more investment into the energy resources in the Americas."
Russia is already feeling the growth of American energy, Jaffe says. As the U.S. produces more of its own natural gas, Europe is free to purchase liquefied natural gas the US is no longer buying.
"They're buying less natural gas from Russia," Jaffe says. "So Russia would only supply 10 percent of European natural gas demand by 2030. That means the Russians are no longer powerful."
The American energy boom, Jaffe says, could endanger many green-energy initiatives that have gained popularity in recent years. But royalties and revenue from U.S. production of oil and natural gas, she adds, could be used to invest in improving green technology.
"We don't have the commercial technology now," she says, noting the recent bankruptcy of American solar companies like Solyndra.
"The point is you can't force a technology that's not commercial. Rather than subsidize things that are not going to be competitive, we need to actually use that money to do R&D to create technologies — the same way that the industries created these technologies to produce natural gas and it turned out so commercially successful."