Shale Strengthening United States’ Hand in International Affairs

It’s clear that shale development has revitalized the U.S. economy and greatly enhanced our energy security, but many people do not realize the extent to which it has made an impact on international affairs.

That was a topic of discussion at a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service event titled, “An Energy Revolution? The Political Ecologies of Shale Oil in the Middle East, US and China.”  As one of the panelists, Dr. Thomas McNaugher, a current Georgetown professor and Council on Foreign Relations member, said,

“Fracking has actually helped in imposing sanctions on Iran.  We’ve taken their oil off the market [and] we’ve brought more than that on the market through our fracking, so fracking has actually helped there.”

McNaugher added that natural gas exports could also be a geopolitical game-changer and potentially displace Russian energy supplies to Europe and Asia:

“[I]f you begin to export east and west, it might actually affect Putin’s leverage,” he said.

In fact, the recently updated White House National Security Strategy noted America’s “significant stake in the energy security of our allies in Europe and elsewhere,” adding:

“Increasing global access to reliable and affordable energy is one of the most powerful ways to support social and economic development and to help build new markets for U.S. technology and investment.”

Still, the U.S. has yet to decide how to specifically leverage its position as the world’s largest oil and gas producer:

“The United States, which has been the huge beneficiary of the shale revolution, is faced with choices that it’s not had since the 1970s—whether to export gas in LNG form and maybe ultimately oil, and whether to use these exports to assist friends or pressure competitors,” explained Georgetown professor and former National Intelligence Council official Casimir Yost.

Indeed, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the U.S. will dominate the global market for years to come thanks to the American shale revolution. In its annual Medium Term Oil Market Report, which was released last week, the agency predicts that the U.S. will be the largest source of oil supply growth worldwide up to 2020. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) concluded in its most recent Short Term Energy Outlook also released last week, American crude oil production is projected to average 9.5 million barrels per day in 2016. The record average level of U.S. production was 9.6 million barrels per day in 1970.

It’s certainly no secret that our global energy power status is also benefitting Americans here at home. Shale is having positive impacts across the country’s economy, from saving rural Ohio from massive budget deficits, to fueling manufacturing and STEM jobs and providing a cleaner and more affordable source of energy. Clearly, American oil and natural gas is poised to stay on top both domestically and abroad.

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