American energy independence, for decades the preserve of quixotic rhetoric, has become a serious prospect thanks to the resurgence in US oil and gas output. The International Energy Agency this week projected that the US could overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer by 2020. Whether that happens or not, what is unfolding in the US will continue to change its economy and affect both international relations and the global energy outlook.
US energy independence is still far off. But a rebalancing of world oil production has already begun. The US will rapidly become much less dependent on oil imports and will soon join the ranks of exporters of liquefied natural gas. This is a dramatic change from the outlook just four years ago, when Barack Obama won his first presidential election. In 2008, the expectation was for decline in US oil production and an increase in imports. This fed a pervasive sentiment that American oil’s days were coming to an end.