The United States is One Step Closer to Energy Independence, but Climate Change Concerns Loom Large

Wednesday, November 14, 2012, by Collier Johnson II

On November 12, 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its World Energy Outlook which concluded that the United States will become the number one oil producer in the world by 2020 and completely energy independent by 2035.  If the IEA predictions are correct, this will be a great improvement on the current outlook of the United States’ energy situation.  Currently, the U.S. imports about 20% of its total energy needs.  By 2035, the IEA predicts that the United States will be a net exporter of oil.  Other countries expected to play an important role in energy are Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  Saudi Arabia is expected to be one of the top exporters of crude oil and Iraq will produce 45% of the world’s oil by 2035

By 2035, the IEA predicts that the United States will be a net exporter of oil.

Commentators offer several reasons why the United States has experienced this energy boom.  First, new technology has made it possible for oil producers to “squeeze oil out of rock once thought too difficult and expensive to tap. Drillers have learned to drill horizontally into long, thin seams of shale and other rock that holds oil, instead of searching for rare underground pools of hydrocarbons that have accumulated over millions of years.” In order to retrieve the oil from the rocks the oil companies use a process known as fracking, which has been criticized for causing environmental problems.  The U.S. has also benefitted from a long period of high gas prices, which has given oil companies the economic capital to develop new techniques for finding and retrieving oil.  Finally, the United States has become a major of producer of natural gas which experts predict the U.S. could begin exporting to other countries as early as 2016

Although the promise of American energy independence has generally been welcomed, some people have suggested that it will have unforeseen consequences.  Most of the energy boom will occur because of an increase in the use of fossil fuels, which will delay the transition to clean energy.  I would imagine that members of Congress are less likely to support clean energy initiatives if it will cost significantly more than using fossil fuels.  Many supporters of climate change were relying on projections of “peak oil” to convince people for the need of alternative energy.  With no peak oil in sight, supporters of climate change will likely to have to convince legislatures to curb carbon emissions to help the environment.  Whether they will succeed or not remains to be seen.