7/9/2013 8:45 PM ET|
America's energy future is looking independent
The 'new Middle East'
The U.S. isn't alone in this boom. Canadian production is on the rise, and Mexican production is making a comeback. In fact, North America as a whole may produce 27 million barrels of oil, natural gas and other fuels per day by 2020, according to Citi analysts, up from around 15 million in 2010.
The result? What happens in other oil-producing countries will become less important to the U.S. and the rest of the world. In fact, we could see a new dawn of global stability, the likes of which we have never seen before, according to Citi. "North America is becoming the new Middle East," the analysts said.
But let's be real: This won't happen easily, mainly because of the politics at work. Environmentalists are already having fits about the consequences of fracking. How much oil and gas can we shake out of the land before an environmental disaster occurs? Clean-energy advocates worry that the new focus on oil and gas leaves little room for solar and wind development. And getting crude oil and natural gas from new production sites in North America to refiners and end users means new pipelines through someone's backyard or moving energy resources by rail, with the built-in hazards Canada is learning first-hand in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
And yet the reasons to push forward are just as compelling. The U.S. economy, which has struggled for so long, could see more than 3 million new energy jobs by 2020, according to the Citi report. Imagine what it would do for our economic stability and national security -- not to mention foreign policy -- to be less reliant on other countries for oil and gas.
A new world unfolds
So much of this boom is still unclear. We have no clue about the long-term environmental consequences of fracking. We don't know how the Middle East will react as its vise-like grip over the world's energy supply is loosened. We don't know how U.S. lawmakers will handle the country's newfound power -- and Congress' inability to agree on anything lately doesn't inspire much confidence here.
Meanwhile, Americans continue to explore other means of energy production. They're getting off the grid with solar, although it's still very expensive to do so. Wind energy is also seeing new momentum. Only nuclear power, it seems, has been left behind in the shadow of shale gas.
Dare we hope for energy independence? Could all of these trends -- a burst of oil and gas production, falling consumption and more renewable energy -- come together in a revolution unlike anything in recent history?
The path is there, but it's rocky. It requires flexibility and cooperation from Democrats and Republicans, from the energy industry, from environmental advocates and from business leaders. And it will take years, even decades, to get there -- although the intense industry focus on fracking could speed that along.
Where we go from here is anyone's guess, but one thing is clear: The energy boom has opened up countless possibilities that could forever change the U.S. and the rest of the world. Our new energy story has just begun.
This article is part of MSN Money's special report on energy independence in America. Read the full series here:
- Can America frack its way to energy independence?
- Deepwater drilling reborn in the Gulf of Mexico
- Want to get off the grid? It'll cost you
- Nuclear power faces uncertain future
- Alt-fuel cars hit America's on-ramp
- 10 weird renewable energy sources
- Alternative energy keeps flowing in a cheap-fuel world
- 13 energy stocks ready to roll
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This article seems to downplay the role consumers can play by reducing our oil usage. More fuel efficient cars and electric vehicles can help us meet the goal. Electric is much cheaper than gas, and rates are much more stable since its produced from such a diverse mix of resources.
It also downplays the fact that energy independent or not, global supply and demand will determine future prices for easily exportable energy like nat gas and oil. That likely means stable to higher prices for as far as the eye can see as global demand trends up. After all, little (if any) of current oil production needs a price of $90+ a barrel to be profitable. The fact is $90 plus is what it takes to discourage enough demand to constrain it to the current supply.
"Some water comes back up, too, but it's incredibly toxic at this point, carrying chemicals, acids, heavy metals and other material that's poisonous to humans and wildlife"
Your statement about the toxicity of produced water is an overstatement. Water and oxygen are chemicals ,vinegar is an acid, iron is a heavy metal, and other materials are everywhere; but none are particularly poisonous to humans or wildlife.
At some point we must realize we can't keep putting up hundreds of 50 story (500 ft.) wind turbines in our most scenic areas. Folks that own homes near these noisy, flashing twirling monsters are sort of going to resent not being compensated for their loss of property values.
Time to recheck those numbers. They aren't green and only the goldman Sacs of the world are profiting.
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