The Current

Fracking for freedom: How U.S. energy independence could change the global political landscape

A surge in oil and gas production means the U.S. may be nearing long-sought energy independence, giving it powerful leverage on the world's political stage, according to economic and foreign policy analysts.
There has been a surge in oil and gas production on American soil over the last decade. (Matthew Brown/Associated Press)

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The United States does not just export natural gas to the wider world, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced recently: it exports freedom as well.

Perry was heralding the surge in oil and gas production on American soil over the last decade.

The country seems to be nearing its goal of energy independence. When Perry spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, he lauded efforts to free the U.S. from any reliance on foreign sources.

While the increased use of fracking has played a large role, Amy Jaffe says that innovations in drilling technology also allowed the U.S. to unleash oil from what are called source rocks.

"Tiny particles of oil and gas… were trapped in something which to the naked eye looks like solid stone," says Jaffe, who is director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

"Using a controversial combination of methods," she said, "including horizontal drilling and the fracturing of the rock with a liquid gel that has both water and sand, we have been able to increase production in the millions of barrels a day."

This increased production gives the U.S. greater leverage around the world, according to Richard Kauzlarich, the co-director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy at George Mason University.

"For a long time a lot of our energy diplomacy was based on rhetoric," he says.

"Now the situation with both oil and gas allows us to put some content behind the rhetoric, and to be able to show to our our friends and allies — particularly those in Eastern Europe — that we can do something about their high degree of energy dependence, particularly in the gas area, with respect to Russia."

Canada's energy program can compliment the U.S., according to Christopher Sands.

Sands is director at the Center for Canadian Studies at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

"Together, as safe, reliable, non-dictatorial countries, we could be supplying friends and allies ... giving them an alternative to the kind of oil they might buy that has strings attached, whether it's Russian oil, or Saudi oil, or Iranian oil or anyone else's," he says.

"The thing that we have in common is that we are principled countries that want to do some good, while also trying to do some business around the world."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

This segment was produced by The Current's Geoff Turner.


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