The domestic production of natural gas from shale deposits, accomplished through hydraulic fracturing techniques, provides the United States with significant geopolitical benefits, concludes a study by energy experts at Rice University. The study found the ability of Russia, Iran, and Venezuela to leverage energy resources will diminish because of the technological advances that have made shale resources more accessible.
Using a dynamic world trade model to project production through 2040, the authors ran three scenarios—one in which all known global shale gas resources can be developed, one in which shale gas resources are confined to the state of knowledge that existed before 2005, and one in which only partial development of U.S. shale occurs because of environmental activism and regulatory factors.
The authors noted the availability of technically recoverable natural gas resources has dramatically increased during the past decade. The amount of North American natural gas reserves that are recoverable with available technology has increased from 38 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in 2003 to 1,930 tcf today, the authors reported.
Venezuela, Russia Thwarted
Under a scenario of substantial domestic shale gas production, the United States eliminates the need to import liquefied natural gas (“LNG”). This not only results in significant domestic economic benefits, but it also has the effect of reducing the global influence of natural gas exporter Venezuela, a nation that has in recent years been hostile to U.S. interests. Under the more cautious, partial-development scenario, Venezuela will fill LNG U.S. demand gaps because of its geographic proximity.
Before technological advances in hydraulic fracturing increased U.S.-based natural gas production potential, Russia and Iran were thought to have access to more than half of all known natural gas resources. Now, according to the study, domestic shale gas production delays Iran’s rise in market share by 20 years, “giving Tehran less leverage to use in the short run to counter U.S. diplomatic efforts at containment.”
Russia, too, would find its ambitions stunted as any hope of creating a natural-gas OPEC dissipates with the diversification of natural gas suppliers. As fracking expands throughout the United States, Russia’s influence over Europe will decline as other world suppliers shift to meet European demand.
“Opponents of conventional energy production often argue the United States should abandon cost-effective energy sources and turn instead to costly and unreliable wind and solar power in the interests of national security. The Rice University study confirms the common-sense notion that domestic production of natural gas and other affordable energy sources increases national security,” said Heartland Institute science director Jay Lehr.
John Monaghan ([email protected]) is the legislative specialist for energy and environment issues at The Heartland Institute.