With U.S. energy independence fast emerging as a topic in the presidential election, I thought I’d delve into this topic in greater depth and see how real this possibility is. This will undoubtedly be the most important change to the global economy for the next 20 years.
The energy research house, Raymond James, put out an estimate this morning that domestic American oil production (USO) would rise from 5.6 million barrels a day to 9.1 million by 2015. That means its share of total consumption will leap from 28% to 46% of our total 20 million barrels a day habit. These are game-changing numbers.
Names like Eagle Ford, Haynesville, and Bakken Shale, once obscure references on geological maps, are now a major force in the country’s energy picture. Ten years ago North Dakota was suffering from depopulation because of a severe job shortage. Now, the housing shortage is so extreme that itinerate oil workers must brave -40 degree winter temperatures in their recreational vehicles pursuing their $150,000 a year jobs.
The value of this extra 3.5 million barrels/day works out to $120 billion a year at current prices (3.5 million X 365 X $94). That will drop America’s trade deficit by nearly 25% over the next three years, and almost wipe out our current account surplus. Needless to say, this is a huge positive development.
This 3.5 million barrels will also offset much of the growth in China’s oil demand for the next three years. Fewer oil exports to the U.S. also vastly expand the standby production capacity of Saudi Arabia.
If you want proof of the impact this will have on the economy, look no further than the coal (KOL) and rail stocks (UNP) which have been falling in a rising market. Power plant conversion from coal to natural gas (UNG) is accelerating at a dramatic pace. That leaves China as the remaining buyer, and their economy is slowing.
It all makes the current price of oil at $94 look a little rich. As with the last oil spike three years ago, this one is occurring in the face of a supply glut. Cushing, Oklahoma is awash in Texas tea, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve stashed away in salt domes in Texas and Louisiana is at its maximum capacity of 727 barrels. Concerns about war with Iran, fanned by elections in both countries, have taken prices up from $75 in the fall. This is why I have been smashing every $6 rally in oil, advising readers to go short.
My oil industry friends tell me this fear premium has added $30-$40 to the price of crude. The current run-up isn’t going to take us to the $150 high that we saw in the last cycle. It is also why I am keeping oil companies with major onshore domestic assets, like Exxon Mobile (XOM) and Occidental Petroleum (OXY), in my long-term model portfolio.