US could become world’s biggest oil producer within ten years

The world’s foremost energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency (IEA), has released a report announcing that the US is expected to overtake Saudi Arabia as the “world’s biggest” oil producer by as soon as 2020.

By 2020, the IEA predicts that the US will be producing 11.1 million barrels of oil per day, compared with 10.6 million in Saudi Arabia. The IEA said the reason for this was the significant growth and development in the US of extracting oil from shale rock, which involves blasting dense rocks apart to release the fossil fuels trapped within. The procedure, also known as “fracking” has developed significantly in recent years. Fracking can also be used to extract natural gas from shale rock, and the IEA has also predicted that the US will overtake Russia as the world’s biggest gas producer by 2015.

The IEA reported that, as a result of these processes, the US will become “all but self-sufficient” in its energy needs by around 2035. Even now, the country currently only imports around 20% of its total energy needs.

There are serious concerns among politicians and environmental activists about the IEA findings, as it is feared that if the US continue fracking for oil and gas without taking precautions, it could lead to a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions, putting an end to hopes of halting climate change. The chief economist at the IEA, Faith Birol, said that the US needed to seriously think about the implications of large-scale fracking. He told the Guardian that in the US  “climate change has been slipping down the agenda…it is not having a significant impact on energy investors.” However the IEA report did also say that in global terms, renewable energy had become an indispensable part of the energy mix, and could become the world’s second biggest source of power generation by 2015.

For some time, others have been concerned about other harmful effects of fracking. Though spokespeople from the fracking industry has claimed that it is safe, there are fears that it could cause earthquakes. Greenpeace have reported that there has been little actual study of the environmental effects of the process, and that the possible risks involved in drilling operations such as fracking, include leaks, spills, explosions, blowouts, environmental damage, injury and death.

The big growth in US oil and gas production could have significant geopolitical implications, changing the relationships between the US and the Middle East, which have for many decades been defined by America’s thirst for oil.

Sources include: The Guardian, BBC News

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