January 27th, 2012
01:26 PM ET

Assessing American-made energy

By John Cookson, CNN

In the State of the Union, President Obama touted the benefits of domestic oil and gas, saying, “nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy.” A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration details just what this promise might look like, as well as its limits.

Half of the petroleum used in the U.S. is imported, down from 60% in 2005. As the chart below shows, U.S. oil production is expected to increase by a million barrels a day over the next decade, reducing imports from a half now to a third by 2035.

This increased production will come in part from extracting tight oil in North Dakota and Montana with technology similar to that used to extract natural gas from shale in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A negligible amount just a decade ago, shale gas is now a quarter of all U.S. natural gas production. As the chart below shows, output is expected to jump to half by 2035.

Yet for all of its promise, energy innovation remains unpredictable. Only a decade ago, shale gas was a marginal fuel, low in the quantity extracted and low in the expectation for its abundance. Now, shale gas is forecast to surpass nearly all other forms of natural gas extraction in the U.S. combined. Further innovation might increase the supply of shale gas and tight oil even more, or supplant both with another way of producing energy.

Based on this report, a United States that keeps its lights on and its cars moving only on domestic power remains a pipe dream. Instead, the promise of innovation will need to be paired with the reality of diplomacy as the U.S. looks to keep at least a portion of its fuel coming in from elsewhere.

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Topics: Energy • Oil

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