In the not too distant past, the thought of U.S. energy independence seemed like a pipe dream. The status quo of importing oil from foreign countries was the only option for feeding the energy demands of America’s industries and end consumers. All too often, the countries the U.S. imported oil from were, shall we say, not directly aligned with American interests. In many cases, some were openly hostile to the United States but were still willing to do business with us.
Oil as a Political Weapon
Who remembers the gas lines back in the early 70s? That was the result of the OPEC oil embargo placed on countries viewed as sympathetic to Israel. Americans across the country felt the pain at the pump as OPEC punished the United States for its support of Israel over Syria and Egypt in 1973’s Arab-Israeli War.
In 1979, Americans again felt the pain at the pumps during the Iranian Revolution. Oil prices skyrocketed during the Revolution and again during the Gulf War in 1990 and yet again in 2003 when the U.S. invaded Iraq. The Middle East, OPEC in particular, has used oil as a diplomatic weapon against the U.S. and with great success.
What if foreign oil could no longer be used as a weapon of mass economic destruction against the United States? What if America did not have to import oil from nations that were openly hostile towards American ideals and values? The political landscape of the entire world would be forced to evolve.
It seems that we are now in the midst of that very evolution.
The pipe dream of US energy independence is no longer just a dream; it is now a distinct possibility. The shale oil and gas revolution along with new technology is paving the way to U.S. energy independence.
Fracking Revolutionizes the Oil & Gas Industry
Fracking can trace its roots back to the 1860s when Col. Edward A.L. Roberts used what was described as an exploding torpedo to increase production in artesian wells. Since then, technology such as vertical wells and horizontal drilling have revolutionized the oil and gas industry and turned U.S. shale deposits, once considered unrecoverable, into the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. Rystad Energy estimates the US oil reserves to be 264bn barrels, surpassing Saudi Arabia’s 212bn and even Russia’s 256bn barrels in reserves.
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Shale Boom Lowers US Oil Imports
The shale boom has resulted in drastically lowering foreign oil imports into the US. In 2005, the US was importing 65% of the oil needed to meet production demands. In 2010, that figured dropped to 55%, and in 2015, only 28% was imported to meet demand.
Raymond James & Associates estimates that the U.S. will only need to import 11% of its oil to meet production needs by the year 2020. If that estimation turns out to be true, Mexico and Canada could meet the import requirements of the U.S. alone, thus eliminating the need to import oil from countries not necessarily aligned with American interests. Not quite US energy independence, but “North American Oil independence” and that’s a far cry better than where we are now.
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