Magazine article USA TODAY

Energy Independence Day Is Just around the Corner

Magazine article USA TODAY

Energy Independence Day Is Just around the Corner

Article excerpt

WE AS A NATION have been dependent on foreign oil for such a long time that it may come as a shock to many Americans that the U.S. finally is poised to break free of its addiction to oil from the Middle East within the next decade. That is not big talk from oil producers. That is from the International Energy Agency (IEA), an autonomous consortium from 28 countries, and it says America is on track to be producing more oil than Saudi Arabia by 2020. By 2030, the U.S. will become a net oil exporter.

The Department of Energy indicates that the U.S. has reached its highest production level in 20 years and, in the first nine months of 2012, the U.S. met 83% of its energy needs, with production growing at the fastest pace in U.S. history. A new production record may be set in 2013.

How did this happen? Even a decade ago, the idea of the U.S. becoming energy independent was a ludicrous pipe dream. Our thirst for oil far outstripped the country's ability to extract the valuable resource from our lands and waters. We thought our wells mostly had run dry, but new technologies and approaches to unlocking oil and natural gas trapped in shale reserves that long had been untouchable turned conventional thinking on its head. Through a new drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, we now are able to extract oil and gas from reserves that are thought to be among the top producers in the world.

Shale plays across the U.S. still are full of surprises and extraordinary promise, fueling an energy boom that soon will free us of our dependence on oil from the Middle East. Texas alone, for example, now produces more oil than the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia. The Eagle Ford shale in Texas had looked like it was on its last legs in 2008, but now is one of the most active plays in the U.S.--behind only the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico and the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota--in number of active wells.

While the U.S. folges its way to becoming an oil exporters in the next few decades, we are not alone in the quest to weaken the influence of the oil giants in the Middle East. Our Western allies, Canada and Mexico, help to form a formidable energy alliance that can provide greater stability and balance to global energy markets. Canada happens to be home to the world's second largest proven oil reserves and the third largest producer of natural gas; Mexico ranks seventh on the world oil scene.

The U.S. enjoys more equitable trading partnerships with Canada and Mexico than does with countries in the Middle East For instance, Canada "buys back" about 90 cents of every dollar in goods and services that the U.S. buys from Canada; oil exporting countries in the Middle East buy back less than one-third of that amount.

The U.S. and Mexico have formed a mutually beneficial relationship, with Mexico exporting most of its oil production to the U.S., then importing 60% of its gasoline back from the U.S. By working to increase U.S. gas and oil production to its fullest potential, while partnering with Western allies that foster healthy trade practices and increase U.S. competitiveness in the global market, the U.S. finally can be free of the undue influence and volatility nurtured by Middle Eastern governments hostile toward the U.S. and its allies.

As with most good things in life, there are a few potential obstacles to the U.S.'s dream of energy independence. One possible wrinkle in these plans could be China, which quietly has been purchasing interests in oil and gas companies in the U.S. and Canada China's investments could help the U.S., financing further exploration and development, but there also is potential for China's interests to clash with our own.

Specialists in the field believe that China holds the world's largest shale gas reserves, with more recoverable gas than the U.S. and Canada combined. The problem for China, at least for now and into the near future, is that, while it is the world's fifth largest producer of oil, it also is the world's largest consumer of energy and does not produce nearly enough to fulfill its own needs. …

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