A pumpjack helps extract oil from a North Dakota well in August 2013. The Energy Administration launched an online map in February 2014 showing the location of producing oil and gas wells across the United States.

A Golden Age for Energy, If You Can Keep It

The American energy industry is set to boom, unless lawmakers mess it all up.

A pumpjack helps extract oil from a North Dakota well in August 2013. The Energy Administration launched an online map in February 2014 showing the location of producing oil and gas wells across the United States.

Lawmakers need to make sure not to bungle up energy policy.

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By 2025, global demand for crude oil could grow by 15 percent to 20 percent even as modern fuel efficiencies reduce the amount of gasoline and diesel consumed by U.S. cars and planes. That’s what Valero Energy Chairman and CEO Bill Kiesse told his audience at an energy conference in Houston earlier this month. 

The North American energy resurgence “is the biggest thing that’s happened in my career,” said Kiesse, who’s spent 45 years in the energy industry. “The country’s base of gas reserves now seems almost unlimited," said Kiesse, adding that the world won’t see a peak in fossil fuel demand “in my lifetime.”

If you think Kiesse’s optimism is simply some obligatory cheerleading as he moves closer perhaps to retirement, it may be worthwhile to consider Saudi Aramco Senior Vice President Abdallah Al-Sadaan’s outlook on the same data Kiesse views. He says a decline in oil consumption is unlikely as it would require a substantial displacement of oil as the main ingredient in transportation fuels.  (The Cubs probably have a better chance of winning the World Series.)

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

According to Fuelfix.com, Al-Sadaan says China and India will lead a global population increase with another 2 billion people by 2050, “and more people means more cars and more energy consumption.”

He maintains that even with uncertainty about transportation demand, the consensus anticipates demand growth at 1.5 percent to 2 percent annually. That translates into demand for transportation alone growing by 47 million barrels per day by 2050.

Are there potential impediments the energy sector might encounter along the way? Yes, and it would be a tragic failure to ignore them. We know what global recession can do to consumption and demand projections. Putting aside the unforeseeable economic and geopolitical events of the future, the biggest road blocks to North American energy’s "golden age" may be those we manufacture here at home. 

Let’s hope America’s 100 senators and 435 U.S. representatives recognize success without remorse and remember first to do no harm.