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U.S. Could Soon Become World’s Top Oil Producer

13 Nov

The oil and gas shale boom (aka, “tracking”) could mean the United States will become the world’s top oil producing country in the near future, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) in their recently released global energy outlook report released on November 12, 2012. (Read the executive summary of the IEA’s report here)

Google Earth view of Dimock, PA

A Google Earth view from 10,000 feet of the landscape around Dimock, PA where fracking is taking place. In this satellite photo the newer roads and bare patches are probably related to fracking operations.

The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the IEA report begins with this paragraph:

“A shale oil boom means the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020, a radical shift that could profoundly transform not just the world’s energy supplies, but also its geopolitics, the International Energy Agency said Monday. In its closely watched annual World Energy Outlook, the IEA, which advises industrialized nations on their energy policies, said the global energy map “is being redrawn by the resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States.” The assessment is in contrast with last year, when it envisioned Russia and Saudi Arabia vying for the top position. “By around 2020, the United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer” and overtake Saudi Arabia for a time, the agency said. “The result is a continued fall in U.S. oil imports (currently at 20% of its needs) to the extent that North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030.”

Here are some choice paragraphs from the New York Times article on the IEA report:

The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by about 2017 and will become a net oil exporter by 2030, the International Energy Agency said Monday (November 12, 2012).

That increased oil production, combined with new American policies to improve energy efficiency, means that the United States will become “all but self-sufficient” in meeting its energy needs in about two decades — a “dramatic reversal of the trend” in most developed countries, a new report released by the agency says.

“The foundations of the global energy systems are shifting,” Fatih Birol, chief economist at the Paris-based organization, which produces the annual World Energy Outlook, said in an interview before the release. The agency, which advises industrialized nations on energy issues, had previously predicted that Saudi Arabia would be the leading producer until 2035.

The report also predicted that global energy demand would grow between 35 and 46 percent from 2010 to 2035, depending on whether policies that have been proposed are put in place. Most of that growth will come from China, India and the Middle East, where the consuming class is growing rapidly. The consequences are “potentially far-reaching” for global energy markets and trade, the report said.

Dr. Birol noted, for example, that Middle Eastern oil once bound for the United States would probably be rerouted to China. American-mined coal, facing declining demand in its home market, is already heading to Europe and China instead.

But the message is more sobering for the planet, in terms of climate change. Although natural gas is frequently promoted for being relatively low in carbon emissions compared to oil or coal, the new global energy market could make it harder to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

The United States’ reduced reliance on coal will just mean that coal moves to other places, the report says. And the use of coal, now the dirtiest fuel, continues to rise elsewhere. China’s coal demand will peak around 2020 and then stay steady until 2035, the report predicted, and in 2025, India will overtake the United States as the world’s second-largest coal user.

(The New York Times story can be accessed here)

Google Earth view of Pinedale, Wy

Another Google Earth view of a fracking landscape, this one from 20,000 feet of the area around Pinedale, Wyoming

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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Global Environment, North America

 

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