America’s historic gusher

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by Andy Serwer, Managing Editor,

from Fortune Magazine,

Have you really considered what a massive game changer America’s newly exploitable 100-year supply of oil and gas is? We’re only beginning to feel the implications — imagine what the world will look like in 50 years when we’re in the sweet spot of the boom.

First, two major challenges: We need to be able to extract this abundance safely. And second, we must also transition to sustainable energy sources and reduce greenhouse emissions. I believe we can do both. We’re already fracking every day in this country, and though it’s not risk-free, clearly it can be done. As for the second problem — that these new sources of oil and gas might sideline efforts to develop renewables — that’s a much tougher nut. I still feel sanguine, though, because nat gas (which is much of the resource) is cleaner than other fossil fuels (how much is debatable), and through technology is getting cleaner.

Of course, our new domestic production makes us less reliant on hundreds of billions of dollars of energy from countries that can be … problematic.

From 2007 through 2012, the U.S. added about 1 million private sector jobs, a roughly 1% increase. In the same period, the oil and gas industry grew by more than 162,000 jobs, a 40% jump. Yergin thinks the number of jobs supported by “unconventional” oil and gas is 1.7 million and could reach 3 million by 2020.

Some states, like Texas and Colorado, are already benefiting tremendously. Then there’s North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producer in the U.S., behind Texas and ahead of California and Alaska …

But really, it’s bigger than that. Says Yergin: “What’s becoming clear is that [the boom] is having much wider economic impact. The manufacturing renaissance supported by lower prices will add substantially more jobs. And low natural-gas prices are a major factor in revitalizing manufacturing in the United States and making the U.S. much more competitive in the world economy.

Imagine what they’ll see in 2063. Let’s hope it’s a resource-rich country with an enviable energy industry safety record and low unemployment, well into the transition to clean energy.

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