The New York Times: Only two or three years ago, consensus was building among pundits that we had reached peak oil, that the fossil fuel industry was in its dotage and that the world would suffer repeated energy price shocks in the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy. Many people in the oil industry were skeptical of this dire prognosis, and the extraordinary recent expansion of unconventional gas and oil production in North America proved the optimists to be correct.
What many fail to recognize, however, is that North America’s oil and gas renaissance, which has the potential to fuel a U.S. industrial recovery with cheaper energy, is not a happy accident of geology and lucky drilling. The dramatic rise in shale-gas extraction and the tight-oil revolution (mostly crude oil that is found in shale deposits) happened in the United States and Canada because open access, sound government policy, stable property rights and the incentive offered by market pricing unleashed the skills of good engineers.
Last year, in BP’s Energy Outlook 2030, we hailed the prospect of North American energy self-sufficiency. With the incentive of high oil prices and the application to oil of drilling techniques mastered for shale gas, we now estimate that tight oil will account for almost half of the 16 million barrel per day increase in the world’s oil output by 2030. Almost two thirds of the new oil will come from the Americas, mainly U.S. tight oil and oil sands from Canada. The United States is likely to surpass Saudi Arabia in daily output very soon, and non-OPEC production will dominate global supply growth over the coming decade.
Policy, not geology, is driving the extraordinary turn of events that is boosting America’s oil industry. East Asia boasts shale and tight-oil resources greater than those of the United States. Latin America and Africa too have very substantial endowments. However, the competitive environment, government policy and available infrastructure mean that North America will dominate the production of shale gas and tight oil for some time to come.