America, the fossil fuel colossus

A few days ago All Things Considered (dum dum dum dum, dum dum de dum dum) ran a segment – Concerns About Russia Fuel New Calls For Gas Exports – about whether the US should use its shale gas boom as a lever against Putin.

Russia’s leverage in Ukraine comes, in part, from its energy supplies. Ukraine is dependent on the country for the majority of its natural gas. But what if the U.S., with its new surge in natural gas supplies, was able to undercut that relationship?

NPR of course, never engages in self-censorship, so when they say that we have so much gas that we can undercut the Russians, they must believe it.

And today, CNBC claims that, US poised to become world’s only superpower:

The U.S. is poised to become the sole economic superpower in the world.

I call it “Fortress America.”

I’ve been traveling around the U.S. for the past 18 months and have noticed enormous changes. They’re not driven by the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies, although many of the positive changes taking place in energy, manufacturing, technology and retail sales could not have happened if the Fed, namely Ben Bernanke, had not saved the economy from another Great Depression. …

I base my outlook on four legs of an economic stool:

* The energy revolution
* A manufacturing renaissance here at home
* Rapid technological innovation
* A major recovery in residential real estate

That second one made me wince because I recently had a long online discussion about deflation, where it was made clear that a lot of economists justify really low inflation because they don’t believe that there is anything in the US worth investment except the financial sector. Innovation is of course the new steampunk. And in real estate, the major recovery is that people are moving back to areas with less expensive real estate whether or not there are jobs in the area because homes in more prosperous areas are far too expensive.

As for the energy revolution, as you did in school, Compare and Contrast the above with a Bloomsberg Businessweek article from a few weeks ago, Big Oil Has Big Problems:

Some of the world’s largest oil companies are reporting pretty ugly earnings. Profits at Exxon Mobil (XOM), the biggest U.S. oil company, are down 27 percent off its worst fourth-quarter earnings in four years. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.B), Europe’s biggest oil major, saw its profits tumble 48 percent. …

In a way, the world’s major oil companies all suffer from some version of the same problem: They’re spending more money to produce less oil. The world’s cheap, easy-to-find reserves are basically gone; the low-hanging fruit was picked decades ago. Not only is the new stuff harder to find, but the older stuff is running out faster and faster.

The Businessweek article sees some hope in longer lead projects and the shale gas boom, but that’s not a given either according to a Bloomberg article, Wells That Fizzle Are a ‘Potential Show Stopper’ for the Shale Boom:

New wells are fizzling out in their first year, threatening the 3-year-old oil boom. …

Just when the nation is hastening its march toward energy independence, the industry is concerned about crummy rock causing shale wells to sputter, some dropping as much as three-quarters of their output in the first year. That forces drillers onto a hamster wheel: They have to drill more wells, faster, to keep production up and satisfy investors, who in turn see costs rising and profits suffering.

Drillers think they can do better with a new, ‘science-based approach’, but one CEO admits, “We’ve drilled all the good stuff, … These are very poor quality formations that I don’t believe God intended for us to produce from the source rock.”

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