"...The Rust Belt owes its new shine to many factors, including rising wages and industrial-land costs in Asia. But none is bigger than the U.S. energy boom. Thanks to a head start in extracting oil and gas from shales, North America now produces far more natural gas than any other continent. Unlike oil, gas isn't easily transported across oceans, and a result is some of the world's cheapest energy within our reach: Natural gas here costs $3.55 per million British thermal units, versus roughly $12 in Europe and $16 in Japan
. Cheap energy not only reduces our trade deficit and our addiction to Middle East oil, it also makes our factories more competitive globally -- a boon for a country that had gone from exporting American goods to exporting American jobs.
The biggest beneficiaries are energy-guzzling companies like chemical producers and steelmakers..."
Our energy boom got cracking with fracking, a controversial process in which pressurized fluids are pumped through rock formations, often a mile or more under the ground, to extract oil and gas. Critics condemn fracking, which they contend causes environmental harm, but even they agree that it's led to an abundance of cheap gas. Over the past six years, U.S. production of petroleum and natural gas has jumped from 15 million barrels of oil-equivalent a day to 20.1 million, a 20-year high. Over the same period, imports have fallen from 14 million barrels a day to below eight million, a 25-year low.
It's a sign of the times: Graduates from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology -- acceptance rate: 88%; mascot: Grubby the Miner -- now command a median starting salary 16% higher than that of Yalies.
By 2020, the U.S. will become the world's biggest oil producer
, says the International Energy Agency. By 2025, North America will be a net energy exporter, predicts ExxonMobil (XOM).
That edge should remain ours for Decades. "It isn't just the huge reserves we have underground," says Tim Parker, who manages T. Rowe Price's natural-resource stock portfolios. "No one else has our predictable cocktail of infrastructure already in place, know-how, a relative abundance of water, and a favorable royalty regime that give landowners a stake in the exploration game.".."