America's Energy Opportunity: How to Harness the New Sources of U.S. Power

Author: Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change
May/June 2013
Foreign Affairs

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An energy revolution is unfolding in the United States -- but unlike most past or promised revolutions, this one is not confined to a single fuel or technology. After falling for more than two straight decades after 1985, U.S. crude oil production has now risen for four consecutive years, and in 2012, it posted its largest one-year increase since the dawn of the oil industry more than 150 years ago. Meanwhile, in 2011, natural gas surpassed coal as the United States' biggest source of domestically produced energy, thanks to surging output and plunging prices. And all this growth in U.S. fossil fuel production has not prevented the rise of zero-carbon energy sources: the amount of electricity generated from cutting-edge renewables -- wind, solar, and geothermal -- has doubled since 2008, and prices have plummeted. Moreover, as technological innovations have made U.S. motor vehicles more fuel efficient, the country's oil consumption has fallen by nearly ten percent since 2005, reversing what previously seemed to be an interminable upward trend.

The U.S. energy landscape has not undergone such drastic changes since the 1960s and 1970s, which witnessed the emergence of nuclear power, peak U.S. oil production, two oil crises in the Middle East, and the birth of the environmental movement. Not surprisingly, the present transformation is prompting big predictions about the future.

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