That is quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.
From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.
“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”
Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.
Since 2006, exports to the United States have fallen from all but one major member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the net decline adding up to nearly 1.8 million barrels a day. Canada, Brazil and Colombia have increased exports to the United States by 700,000 barrels daily in that time and now provide nearly 3.4 million barrels a day.
Six Persian Gulf suppliers provide just 22 percent of all U.S. imports, the nonpartisan U.S. Energy Information Administration said this month. The United States’ neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, meanwhile, provide more than half — a figure that has held steady for years because, as production has fallen in the oil powers of Venezuela and Mexico, it has gone up elsewhere.
Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and the “tight” rock formations of North Dakota and Texas — basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently. Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Colombia and far off the coast of Brazil, under thick salt beds thousands of feet below the surface.