Tipping the Power Balance? The Shale Revolution and U.S. Foreign Policy
The United States is on track to become energy independent (independent from energy imports). New gas and oil extraction methods have enabled the development of resources that were previously too costly to access: shale gas and tight oil. Shale gas and shale/tight oil are natural hydrocarbon deposits that are trapped in dense rock layers several hundred meters deep in the ground (shale gas deposits are usually trapped in shale, shale/tight oil deposits in shale, sandstone or limestone). These unconventional resources are released through “hydraulic fracturing” (fracking): a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected at high pressure via horizontal drillings to create small fractures in the rock layers. As a consequence of the shale gas and oil boom (sometimes dubbed simply as shale boom or shale revolution), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts the net import share of total U.S. energy consumption to decline from 16 percent in 2012 to 4 percent by 2040.1 In 2012, domestic oil production reached its highest level in 15 years. Dependence on foreign oil is at its lowest level since the 1990s. Natural gas production has reached an all-time high, surpassing coal as the country’s most important source of domestically produced energy.