The days of the United States being a major energy importer are slowly waning, and it may soon be our turn to become exporters to the world. The growing production of oil from shale has dramatically cut our reliance on foreign oil, we're slowly cutting back the use of coal at the same time China's demand grow, and with a growing supply of natural gas, we may soon be a major supplier of liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
The tables have turned
The change in our energy dynamic first occurred in the coal market, where just a few years ago China became a major importer and the U.S. a net exporter. Despite falling U.S. demand, firms like Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU ) and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR ) keep churning out more coal, which is increasingly being shipped abroad.
The U.S. has always had an abundant supply of natural gas, but until recently, the potential power of the U.S. has largely been trapped. That may be changing as shale is unlocked and the LNG market changes.
Cheniere Energy (AMEX: LNG ) and subsidiary Cheniere Energy Partners (AMEX: CQP ) have signed some major LNG export deals for their Sabine Pass export terminal just a few years after thinking importing LNG was going to be the future. With demand growing in China and India, and supply growing in the U.S., we could become a major energy exporter to emerging markets.
And the potential opportunity is huge. According to the Baker Institute, Asia accounts for 59% of the worldwide LNG demand, and demand for all energy sources continues to grow there. Unless China and other Asian markets are able to ramp up production more quickly than expected, LNG could be a boon for the U.S.'s energy future.
But the most surprising turnaround may be occurring where shale production and deepwater drilling has helped reduce our demand on foreign oil. In 2005, the U.S. imported 60.3% of the oil we used; in the first 10 months of 2011 that number fell to 45.6%. If we remove the oil we got from Canada, then the U.S. imports just 35% of our oil from the rest of the world.
The world's new energy powerhouse
If you haven't noticed until now, the U.S. is turning into a major energy power. As companies like Kodiak Oil & Gas (NYSE: KOG ) , Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR ) , and Range Resources (NYSE: RRC ) continue to expand production, so expands our place in the world's energy future. Before long, North America may be the place the world comes to for energy.