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November 15, 2012

Analysis: US To Become Energy Independent By 2035

A few assumptions here: That Obama's strange policy choices do not forestall this possibility, that shale-oil extraction technology matures to make it cheap enough to be viable, and that we engineer a way to bring millions of gallons of water to the shale (or the shale to millions of gallons of water).

The process is very water-intensive. One report I saw noted that a large-scale shale-oil operation in the mountain states would almost drain all the water from farms and Denver. Just spitballing here, but I got the sense a seriously large-scale operation would have to involve ocean water being pumped in via massive transcontinental pipes and desalinated.

But these are simply problems, and when something's important, and when people can make money from it (will people still be making money on investments ten years from now?), problems are overcome.

The International Energy Agency thinks the problems will be solved.

The latest reminder of this comes from a surprising source: the annual World Energy Outlook report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA). In the report, the agency comes to the startling conclusion that, by 2020, the United States will displace Saudi Arabia — albeit temporarily — as the world’s largest oil producer. Even more astonishing, the United States is projected by 2035 to be virtually self-sufficient in oil, with modest imports coming from secure suppliers.


No more. Geology and technology, it seems, are destiny.

The same technology that has resulted in a vast expansion of natural gas production — so-called “shale gas” — is doing the same for oil. “Fracking” (shooting highly pressurized water into oil formations) and horizontal drilling are steadily increasing production. Meanwhile, the IEA expects that much-improved vehicle fuel efficiency will slowly reduce U.S. oil demand. The Obama administration has adopted rules raising fuel efficiency for new cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 -- roughly double the present standard.

Ah. Well, that's actually a mark I doubt very much will be hit. The report also thinks a that biofuels will be A Thing, which I doubt. Assuming some of these things I don't in fact assume:

The IEA sees profound consequences. For starters, the long-standing U.S. trade deficit will narrow and might disappear. In 2011, oil imports represented two-thirds of the deficit in goods. While the United States will use less imported oil, it should also become a substantial exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG); until a few years ago, it “was expected to become a major importer of LNG.” Abundant and cheap natural gas should support a manufacturing revival by attracting energy-intensive industries such as “aluminum, paper or iron and steel, or . . . petrochemicals . . . where feedstock costs can represent over 80 percent of total operating expenses.”

If America can just survive Obama, help is on the way.

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posted by Ace at 11:05 AM

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