11/14/13 : Kelsey LaFreniere

US to Become Top Oil Producer, But Efficiency Potential Remains Untapped

Working oil rigs pumping under the sun

The United States will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015, according to a report released this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Via Bloomberg:

U.S. oil production will rise to 11.6 million barrels a day in 2020, from 9.2 million in 2012, as it taps rock and shale layers in North Dakota and Texas with the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, according to the IEA, a Paris-based adviser to 28 energy-consuming nations. The report didn’t specify an output level for 2015.

Over the same time period, Saudi Arabian production will fall to 10.6 million from 11.7 million and Russia slips to 10.4 million from 10.7 million barrels. The figures include natural gas liquids, condensates and crude.

The IEA predicts that because of increased unconventional oil and gas production and improved energy efficiency the U.S will be able to meet nearly all of its energy needs, in energy equivalent terms, from domestic sources by 2035.

While this expectation may be heartening, the report makes it quite clear that increased domestic production does not let the U.S. off the hook for increasing investment in energy efficiency (emphasis added):

“As well as bringing down costs for industry, efficiency measures mitigate the impact of energy prices on household budgets… and on import bills… But the potential for energy efficiency is still far from exhausted: two-thirds of the economic potential of energy efficiency is set to remain untapped in our central scenario. Action is needed to break down the various barriers to investment in energy efficiency.”

A continuation of business as usual means leaving huge sums of money on the table. With oil prices expected to reach $128 per barrel in 2035, and levels of consumption on the rise, efficiency is key to keeping our nation’s supply of energy both affordable and reliable.

To delve deeper into this issue, check out the IEA's inaugural Energy Efficiency Market Report highlighting the place of energy efficiency as a major fuel.