In March, Ed Morse and several Citigroup colleagues published a 92-page report with a provocative thesis upending the conventional wisdom on global energy scarcity. North America, they said, is hurtling toward energy independence on the strength of shale, oil sands, and deepwater output in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. By 2020, booming energy production and declining consumption could have a transformative impact on the sluggish U.S. economy, goosing GDP by more than 3 percent, reducing the current account deficit -- the balance of imports and exports -- by 60 percent, and creating nearly 4 million new jobs. The continent, in short, could become the "new Middle East" in less than a decade.
The study has already had a far-reaching impact, encouraging both U.S. political parties to revamp their energy strategies and focus not on the dangerous U.S. dependence on Mideast oil but rather on the country's potential to supply its own energy needs and the many benefits that come along with doing so. When Republican Mitt Romney announced a plan to achieve energy independence by 2020, his presidential campaign's white paper cited the Citi report eight times. Barack Obama's campaign, meanwhile, touted the president's commitment to reducing "our dependence on foreign oil" through "an all-of-the-above approach to developing all our energy resources."
Morse, Citi's global head of commodities research, argues that the United States' new role as a net petroleum-product exporter could reshape the geopolitical landscape by weakening OPEC countries and insulating North America from oil price spikes. "We will no longer be kowtowing to despotic rulers and feudal monarchs whose oil supply lines are crucial to other aspects of foreign policy," he recently predicted. And the effects could be even more profound if a more inward-looking United States decides it no longer needs to play the country's post-World War II role as the guarantor of global supply lanes and protector of Gulf sheikhdoms. As for Romney's plan? "I think they have the basic story absolutely correct," Morse told the Atlantic. And he should know. After all, he wrote it.Reading list: A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War, by Amanda Foreman; Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer; Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, by Robert Bryce. Best idea: The G-Zero world. Worst idea: A unilateral strike against Iran's nuclear enhancement facilities. American decline or American renewal? The energy revolution in North America could well be the source of long-term American renewal and strength in the 21st century. More Europe or less? Less. To tweet or not to tweet? Not I, never.