The transformative power of shale is on full display in the graph above. You’ll notice that America’s net energy imports climbed steadily for two decades to a peak in 2005, reflecting a growing reliance on foreign sources to power our economy. Then came fracking. In just eight short years, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling have opened up a new bounty of domestically sourced oil and natural gas, reducing our energy trade balance down to a level not seen since 1988. The EIA reports:
Total U.S. net imports of energy, measured in terms of energy content, declined in 2013 to their lowest level in more than two decades. Growth in the production of oil and natural gas displaced imports and supported increased petroleum product exports, driving most of the decline. A large drop in energy imports together with a smaller increase in energy exports led to a 19% decrease in net energy imports from 2012 to 2013.
As drillers increase their efficiencies, they’ll be able to access new shale plays, driving our net imports even further down. Energy independence is still a fantasy, but a more balanced energy ledger is good for America’s economy as well as its foreign policy. A more stable—and in the case of natural gas, cheaper—supply of energy is good for U.S. households and businesses, and it gives us more room to maneuver in foreign affairs. Hail shale!