Leading Analyst Lauds ‘Shale 2.0’ for Elevating U.S. Global Energy Position

Speaking at the annual meeting of The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network on Tuesday, noted energy scholar Daniel Yergin credited the shale energy revolution for propelling the United States to a position of global energy leadership,

“You go to Asia, you got to Europe, you go to the Middle East, they realize the U.S. and the world is different today because of this change in our energy position… Now, instead of OPEC and non-OPEC, you have the big three: Saudi Arabia, you have Russia and you have a country called the United States.”

Yergin is certainly qualified to make such an assessment. He is the author of two books about the energy industry, The Prize (which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1992) and The Quest. In 1982, he founded Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), which famously hosts an annual energy industry conference called CERAWeek. CERA is now part of leading information and research company IHS Markit, where Yergin is vice chairman.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal audience, Yergin offered the assessment that the U.S. energy industry is reinventing itself once again with recent improvements in hydraulic fracturing technology and efficiency that has been used to boost domestic production following OPEC’s failed price war with the U.S.,

I think we are now in Shale 2.0, where people have re-engineered, have done a reprocess, found out how to be more efficient and they are helped by the fact that costs are much lower.”

As the Energy Information Administration (EIA) made clear in a recent report, the United States has firmly established itself as the leading producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbon products in the world. The U.S. has led the world in hydrocarbon production five years running, and EIA is projecting record oil production in 2018, spurred by shale oil production that is expected to reach record levels next month.

EIA is also projecting surging natural gas production in the short term, and the American impact on global markets is set to become even more pronounced as the U.S. bring a series of LNG export terminals into operation in the near future. Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal came on line in January 2016, allowing natural gas exports from the lower 48 states for the first time. The ability to export gas has created a massive opportunity for the U.S. to adjust its existing trade relationships, especially in Asia, according to Yergin:

“The first shipment of U.S. LNG went through the Panama Canal and arrived in China near Shanghai last January… The US is also going to be one of the big three LNG exporters in the world as well.”

U.S. energy production isn’t just big news for global markets. It has implications for global politics as well, according to Yergin. “The sanctions on Iran would not have worked had it not been for shale, because you could have not replaced the Iranian oil that was taken off the market,” he argued, emphasizing that prices would have skyrocketed uncontrollably if millions of barrels of oil per day suddenly became unavailable. American production largely compensated for diminishing Iranian exports in recent years.

But the biggest impact of the shale revolution is being felt at home. “There are millions of jobs out there that actually have resulted from this shale revolution in the United States,” said Yergin. As we have seen all across the country, communities in wide-ranging states like Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Texas have all benefited from America’s energy ascendance. But the best is yet to come, says Yergin,

“I think people say we are in inning three or inning four. This is still a relatively new technology. In 2008 it wasn’t there. And then we had this increase in U.S. production… that was greater than the production of every single OPEC country except Saudi Arabia. So it happened really fast.”

The game isn’t over just yet, but the United States is clearly in the lead.

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