January 25, 2011
By Bernard Weinstein
Last year, America imported almost 4.4 billion barrels of oil, much of it from countries that don't particularly like us. The tab totaled $260 billion and accounted for roughly half of our trade deficit.
With the economy recovering and oil prices forecast to exceed $100 a barrel this year, imports will grow further and the cost in 2011 could easily exceed $300 billion. This growing dependence on imported oil is good neither for our economy nor our national security.
We could significantly reduce our oil imports by developing our indigenous energy resources, in particular natural gas that's locked in shale formations. Several weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Energy more than doubled its estimates of recoverable shale gas to 827 trillion cubic feet. These reserves are equivalent to 140 billion barrels of oil, more than the proven oil reserves of Iran.
Twenty years ago, the Barnett Shale in North Texas was unknown. Today it's the largest producing natural gas field in the United States with output exceeding 4 billion cubic feet a day. What's more, the Barnett Shale has added a new dimension to the North Texas economy, supporting thousands of jobs and generating millions in tax revenue for local governments and school districts.
In terms of potential output and economic impact, the Barnett is dwarfed by the Marcellus Shale formation that stretches across large swaths of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.
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