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Sign reads: Keep it in the ground

Author Jeremy Leggett criticized the International Energy Agency for its announcement which was "full of triumphalist echoing of Big Oil's messaging" and void of any mention of the climate implications of fossil fuels. (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/cc)

Climate Crisis Be Damned, 'Shale Revolution' Poised to Make US Net Exporter of Oil in Three Years

"The second wave of the U.S. shale revolution is coming," says International Energy Agency

Andrea Germanos

The United States is pumping out so much oil as a result of the so-called "shale revolution" that it's set to become a net oil exporter in 2021.

That's according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which announced the projection Monday in its five-year forecast. "U.S. production growth has exceeded expectations," the analysis states.

Calling the country "the stand-out champion of global supply growth," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said, "The second wave of the U.S. shale revolution is coming."

"It will see the United States account for 70 percent of the rise in global oil production and some 75 percent of the expansion in LNG [liquified natural gas] trade over the next five years," he said. "This will shake up international oil and gas trade flows, with profound implications for the geopolitics of energy."

In a sign of the surge, data from the agency show that in 2010 U.S. shale, extracted through fracking, represented barely a blip in production but zoomed up to over 7 million barrels per day (mb/d) at the start of 2019.

By 2024, the report says, the U.S. will export more oil than Russia and will edge up to the number two exporter spot, right behind Saudi Arabia. Brazil, now under the leadership of right-wing Jair Boslanaro, is also projected to experience a surge in oil supply. The report additionally finds no peak in oil demand; it is set to increase at an annual average of 1.2 mb/d until 2024.

Author Jeremy Leggett, whose books include The Solar Century, took great issue with the IEA's language choice. He said in a tweet: "It isn't acceptable, in 2019, that the @IEA puts out a press release like this, full of triumphalist echoing of Big Oil's messaging, without mentioning the #climate implications in any way."

A recent report from the research and advocacy organization Oil Change International put those implications in stark terms.

Drilling Towards Disaster: Why U.S. Oil and Gas Expansion Is Incompatible with Climate Limits warned that the projected extraction represented "an urgent and existential emergency." New oil and gas development "will impede the rest of the world's ability to manage a climate-safe, equitable decline of oil and gas production," the report warns.

Moreover, it could spew 120 billion tons of new carbon pollution into the atmosphere—roughly equivalent to the lifetime emissions of nearly 1,000 coal-fired power plants.


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