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U.S. to be top oil producer by '17

  • Article by: TIFFANY HSU
  • Los Angeles Times
  • November 12, 2012 - 9:21 PM

The United States will become the world's top producer of oil by about 2017, a net exporter of the fuel around 2030 and nearly self-sufficient in energy by 2035, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

It's a bold set of predictions for a nation that currently imports some 20 percent of its energy needs.

Recently, however, an "energy renaissance" in the United States has caused a boost in oil, shale gas and bio-energy production due to new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fuel efficiency has improved in the transportation sector. The clean energy industry has seen an influx of solar and wind efforts.

"The foundations of the global energy systems are shifting," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the Paris-based organization, which produces the annual World Energy Outlook, said in an interview before the report was released.

The agency, which advises industrialized nations on energy issues, had previously predicted that Saudi Arabia would be the leading producer until 2035.

The consequences are "potentially far reaching" for global energy markets and trade, the report said.

The United States will export more oil than it brings into the country in 2030.

Around the same time, however, Saudi Arabia will be producing some 11.4 million barrels per day of oil, outpacing the 10.2 million from the United States. In 2035, U.S. production will slip to 9.2 million barrels per day, far behind the Middle Eastern nation's 12.3 million barrels per day. Iraq will exceed Russia to become the world's second-largest oil exporter.

At that point, real oil prices will reach $125 a barrel. By then, however, the United States won't be relying much on foreign energy, according to the World Energy Outlook.

Globally, the energy economy will undergo a "sea change," according to the report, with nearly 90 percent of Middle Eastern oil exports redirecting toward Asia.

And what of energy-efficiency efforts?

Fossil fuels, which enjoyed a 30 percent jump in subsidies last year to $523 billion worldwide, will still surpass renewable energy sources, according to IEA. But so-called green power will become the world's second-largest form of generation within three years and will threaten coal's supremacy by 2035.

That progression, however, "hinges critically on continued subsidies" for wind, solar and biofuel technologies, according to IEA.

Even then, however, "the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path," according to the report.

Global energy demand will boom by 2035, rising to 99.7 million barrels a day from 87.4 million last year. China's demand will rise 60 percent in that period; India's will more than double. Demand in developed countries will increase just 3 percent.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will creep up, causing a long-term average temperature increase of 6.5 degrees.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

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