A surprising development? America is now the world’s largest oil supplier.

number-1For those of us who came of age during the oil embargo of 1973 and the subsequent decades of high-priced, restricted-supply petroleum coupled with a contorted foreign policy continuously buffeted by those economic realities … the recent news that the United States is poised to become the world’s top oil supplier in 2013 comes as a bit of a surprise.

But it’s right there in black-and-white, in data published by PIRA Energy Group, a New York-based energy markets consulting firm:

  • This year, the United States is projected to produce an average of ~12 million barrels per day of liquid oil products (crude oil, natural gas liquids and biofuels together).
  • That’s ~300,000 barrels per day higher than Saudi Arabia … and ~1.6 million more than Russia.
  • The other countries that make up the “Big Ten” oil producers – China, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Mexico – don’t even come close to the “Big Three.”

Where’s Venezuela on the list?  Nowhere to be found.

Take that, Carlos Chávez and Nicolás Maduro!

The United States is forecast to pump approximately 7.5 million barrels per day of crude and concentrate in 2013.  That’s actually 3 million barrels less than Saudi Arabia and Russia.

But the shortfall is more than made up by the ~2.5 million in natural gas liquids and ~1 million of biofuels America is also producing every day.

The rise in U.S. production is practically unprecedented.  Only once before has a country raised its production faster (Saudi Arabia in 1970-74).

The reason for the rise in American production?  Two words:  “shale oil.”

USA Shale Gas Exploration ZonesU.S. shale oil and condensate production now stands at ~2.5 million barrels per day.  That’s slightly over one-third of total U.S. crude production.

And shale natural gas liquid production, at ~1.2 million barrels per day, is nearly half of total NGL production.

America’s shale oil boom could turn out to be of far greater import than all of the renewable or “alternative energy” schemes put together – despite the political attention and funding these more “sexy” technologies have had lavished on them by federal and state governments and research foundations.

Abetted by the explorationof shale oil formations via horizontal drilling and fracking, the impact of shale oil reserves isn’t a flash in the pan, either.  According to PIRA Energy, America’s position as the largest oil supplier in the world looks to be secure for many years.

Production growth rates may level off eventually, but PIRA forecasts that the United States will continue to increase its lead over Saudi Arabia and Russia until 2020 at least.

… And retain its production lead over all other countries until at least 2030.

What a relief all of this is.  Speaking for myself, I’m loving the fact that America is no longer so beholden to offshore energy resources controlled by people who “might” be our friends one day … and who “might” not be the next.

It’s like financial debt:  Having too much debt is really bad.  Having no debt at all is really nice.

Energy independence — or something close to it — is really nice, too.

The Ripple Effects of High Gasoline Prices

Shopping at home is rising along with gasoline prices.We’ve all heard the news reports about the effects that high gasoline prices are having on families who rely on automotive transportation for their livelihoods. It’s all well and good to promote the use of public transportation, but when your job is 25 miles away along suburban or rural roads, it’s often impractical to adjust commuting behaviors.

We’re also reading how high gas prices are affecting other aspects of the economy, such as the rising price of food items in the grocery stores due to higher transportation costs.

To this, we can now add another consequence of the high cost of petrol. Paralleling the gas price spike has been an increase in Internet activity.

Marin Software, a leading paid search manager platform for advertisers and agencies, has performed an analysis across more than $2 billion worth of paid search marketing activity. The firm established a benchmark based on the share of activity across the Google and Bing search engines, and then studied cost-per-click activity, clickthrough rates and conversion rates.

Marin evaluated the rise and fall in the volume of clicks along with the rise of gas prices over the time period January – March 2011. Voila! It found a positive correlation between rising gas prices and increased click activity.

In a similar vein, digital market intelligence firm comScore is reporting that U.S. e-commerce sales were ~$38 billion during the first quarter of the year. That’s up ~12% compared to the first quarter of 2010. And while e-commerce volume has been up over the past six quarters, this is only the second time the growth as been in double digits.

So the premise that the higher gas prices climb, the more the propensity is to shop from home and avoid the cost of driving appears to be on target. And it’s probably being helped along by the plethora of “free shipping” offers that are also out there — along with avoiding paying sales taxes.

Looking forward to the day when gasoline prices may plateau or fall back, it’ll be interesting to see if Internet activity drops back as well. Or will more people have become used to the comfort of shopping from home in their boxer shorts – so that online activity remains at an elevated level?

I have a suspicion it’ll be the latter.