Red, white and shale: A tectonic shift in energy brings U.S. benefits

The National Intelligence Council thinks big. Its quadrennial reports typically address the mega-issues — global power shifts, the “rise of the rest,” a more global NATO — that could define the future.

In its most recent report, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” the NIC gave a nod to the transformative power of shale gas, calling it a “tectonic shift” likely to provide huge energy security benefits to the United States:

One positive ‘shift’ sees energy independence for the U.S. in as short a period as 10 to 20 years due to abundant quantities of shale gas.

Rising domestic production from unconventional sources of natural gas and oil is raising U.S. supplies by so much, and so quickly, that it could shift the balance of power in global energy markets.

As a result, the Organization of Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC) could lose much of its power to set global oil and gasoline prices, according to the report.

Increased production of natural gas from shale could also “significantly cut oil prices, increase U.S. economic activity by more than 2 percent and add 3 million jobs by 2030,” the report said.

The reverberations from this seismic shift in energy are also being felt and debated across the pond.

In a recent BBC interview , Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser predicted that the shale gas “revolution” will deliver enormous benefits to the U.S. economy and manufacturers:

The United States has up to almost 100 years of gas available against current consumption so there is huge growth there . . .  and it will bring manufacturing [and] petrochemicals back to the United States. So they can actually drive the economy based on this gas and the advantages in its feedstock price because of that gas.

Natural gas is especially important to the chemical and steel industries, which are creating jobs.

Voser said the U.S. government “will embrace this [natural gas] in the longer term in order to bring jobs back,” reversing the outsourcing and offshoring that occurred for decades.

“So it will be cheaper to produce a plastic toy in the United States than in China?” asked the BBC interviewer.

“Absolutely,” Voser responded, noting that manufacturing growth in the U.S. sparked by shale gas could come at the “detriment” of industry in Europe and other parts of the world.

Shale gas and other unconventional energy supplies will help drive “what I call the re-industrialization of the Midwest and the U.S.,” Voser concluded.

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