The U.S. will surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer just two years from now. At least that's what the International Energy Agency predicts. And let's face it: They're pretty credible. This week the IEA published its annual World Energy Outlook, a treasure trove of fascinating information. One of the major takeaways for Fool contributor Sara Murphy was that the United States' incredible energy boom, fueled as it is by natural gas, is both risky and fleeting in the grand scheme of things.
That shale's a gas
One year ago, the IEA defied prevailing ideology and declared that the U.S. would pull ahead of Saudi Arabia to become the biggest oil producer by 2017. This year they doubled down, not only standing by that prediction but also moving it up another two years. The IEA attributes these developments to technologies like fracking, which the agency estimates will push U.S. oil production to 11 billion barrels a day by 2015.
But hold on. There's a caveat. The IEA sees an upper limit to all of this and expects U.S. production to peak by 2025 and then to begin slowly to wane. That's because there's a steep decline rate for wells that have been exploited with fracking technology.
We already we see possible signs that the Bakken shale, for instance, might be starting to shrivel, which is why Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR) is diversifying into other areas. If these trends hold, LNG export giant Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG) may be able to ride the U.S. energy miracle for a while, but it's not the panacea that some folks imagine it to be.
Ultimately, while the U.S. is on top of the world right now, this doesn't change the fundamental fact that the Middle East is where the world's cheap oil sits. Watch the following video to hear more about what the future might hold.