The Associated Press reports: U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest producer.
Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7% this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.
The boom has surprised even the experts.
“Five years ago, if I or anyone had predicted today’s production growth, people would have thought we were crazy,” says Jim Burkhard, head of oil markets research at IHS CERA, an energy consulting firm.
The Energy Department forecasts that U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons, which includes biofuels, will average 11.4 million barrels per day next year. That would be a record for the U.S. and just below Saudi Arabia’s output of 11.6 million barrels. Citibank forecasts U.S. production could reach 13 million to 15 million barrels per day by 2020, helping to make North America “the new Middle East.”
Meanwhile Bloomberg reports: Mecca, which hosts millions of pilgrims a year visiting Islam’s most holy shrine, is working toward becoming the first city in Saudi Arabia to operate a utility-scale plant generating electricity from renewables.
The city on Jan. 5 plans to select from a group of at least 20 bidders competing to build and operate facilities producing 385 gigawatt-hours per year of power including 100 megawatts of solar capacity, said Mayor Osama al-Bar.
“No city in Saudi Arabia owns power-generation assets, and we want to be first city that owns power plants and hopefully the first in the Muslim world,” al-Bar said in an interview on Sept. 16 in the nation’s capital, Riyadh.
The plans are the latest indication that the desert kingdom is stepping up efforts to diversify its sources of energy as economic and population growth threaten to erode Saudi Arabia’s status as the world’s biggest oil exporter.
The central government is seeking $109 billion of investment for building a solar industry, aiming to get a third of Saudi Arabia’s power from the sun by 2032 compared with almost none now. The target is almost as much as the $136 billion invested worldwide in solar energy last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
So, even while most Americans are finally waking up to the reality of global warming and Saudi Arabia is grappling with the challenge of breaking its dependence on oil, the United States is turning itself into a petro-state that wrecks the environment through fracking and tar sands oil extraction.