There’s a great article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal for anyone concerned about U.S. efforts to meet our energy needs while reducing our dependence on foreign oil. As reporters Russell Gold and Daniel Gilbert explain:
"The U.S. is overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, a startling shift that is reshaping markets and eroding the clout of traditional energy-rich nations.
U.S. energy output has been surging in recent years, a comeback fueled by shale-rock formations of oil and natural gas that was unimaginable a decade ago. A Wall Street Journal analysis of global data shows that the U.S. is on track to pass Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas combined this year—if it hasn’t already."
The article cites figures from the US Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency claiming that the United States is currently producing 22.2 million barrels of oil per day as compared to Russia’s 21.8 million barrels of oil per day. For the United States, this production level is up from about 17 million barrels of oil per day in the year 2008.
The surge in energy output in the United States has been triggered, for the most part, by the growing development of oil shale deposits in the Eastern, upper Midwest, and Gulf Coast regions of this country. Through the use of new technologies, U.S. producers can extract natural gas and crude oil from these shale deposits. The successful development of these oil shale deposits and efficient transportation of liquefied natural gas from the oil shale deposits will contribute significantly to our energy independence.
As a result of these developments, The Journal article notes, United States imports of natural gas and crude oil have fallen 32% and 15% respectively over the past five years contributing significantly to a narrowing of our trade deficit.
As encouraging as the outlook for continued expansion and development of our oil shale deposits is to long-term energy self sufficiency, there are several significant challenges that must be addressed as we move forward:
1. It is critical that we continue to improve the technology and safety of the fracking process so that health and environmental concerns about the process of fracking are addressed. 2. The transportation of liquefied natural gas from oil shale deposits to refineries and markets is also important. Currently, it is moved mainly by rail, barge, and pipeline. All three are important but some safety and environmental issues have developed with rail transportation. The long-term solution likely involves better use of America’s extensive pipeline grid. Moreover, we should look at expanding the grid in areas where the production of natural gas in a liquid form is not adequately served by pipelines. 3. As several members of the Dawson & Associates team have seen firsthand, a major challenge facing pipeline companies involves navigating State, Federal, and local permit processes to obtain the necessary approvals to construct and operate critical pipelines. This approval process can add as much as two years to a construction timeline. While we have helped clients shorten this process, the overall permitting system still needs to become more efficient.
Rob Vining Senior Advisor
Rob has spent more than 30 years in federal environmental management and planning, including four years as Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Programs.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.