The Biggest Story in Energy This Year

Michael Teague  |

By far the biggest energy story of the year has been, and will likely continue to be the discoveries of vast reserves of shale oil and gas, especially in the US. These discoveries are set to make America the world's largest producer and exporter by the end of the decade, according to the Internationa Energy Agency. Though the "shale revolution" is in its incipient stages, a number of consequences can already be seen.

-Independent producers are having a much better time with shale production than the world's largest producers, like, Shell ($RDS.A), Chevron (CVX) , and Exxon Mobil (XOM) , who have struggled to keep up output.

-Other countries have also seen the consequences of their own shale discoveries, such as Israel, where many reserves have been discovered off the coast over the last decade or so. Energy independence for Israel would have enormous geopolitical consequences for Israel, making it less reliant on its potentially or openly hostie neighbors.

-The US shale revolution will have its own geopolitical consequences, as increased US output will certainly mean trouble for OPEC. The situation has prompted this rare public display of dissent within the Saudi royal family.

-Naturally, Chinese oil companies are interested to know how much oil and gas they have locked away in shale formations deep beneath the earth's surface, and, like Sinopec, have been making moves to acquire the necessary expertise.

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-Shale energy is so lucrative that it has also become an attractive option for companies who traditionally specialize in the mining and production of hard commodities, such as BHP Billiton (BHP) .

-Greater shale production in the US overall has also seen WTI trade for much closer to Brent prices.

There have been other important issues in the energy markets as well, however.

The ongoing attempt in the US to reduce carbon emissions, particularly with producers mandated by law to blend ever-greater ammounts of ethanol into their gasoline products, has not been without its consequences.

Outside of the shale boom, however, one of the biggest determinants of oil prices this year has been unrest in various parts of the Middle East, in particular Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

The Keystone XL pipeline that would provide Canada a means of exporting its tar-sands crude to the rest of the world seems to be as unpopular as ever. The US lef of the project has met with stiff resistance, and has forced president Obama to back down from approving completion.

In July, initiated an ongoing series titled Getting to Know Your Crude, designed to get investors better acquainted with the history and basics of the oil and gas economy. The following are the articles from that series that have so far seen publication:

-Introduction to bencmark crudes: WTI, Brent and OPEC

-Introduction to oil futures contracts

-A brief history of Standard Oil, the company that inarguably laid the foundations of the global oil economy as we now know it.

[Images Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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