U.S. Set to Reclaim Oil Throne

Here’s one bit of good news amid all the talk of European debt fears and high unemployment rates: The U.S. is about to regain its status as the world’s top oil producer.

So said Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon while speaking at the World Shale Gas Conference & Exhibition in Houston earlier this week. The reason? Shale oil.

Chesapeake and other energy companies are using new drilling technologies to unlock natural gas from shale-rock formations. With the demand for natural gas in the U.S. set to increase by 2 percent a year, according to McClendon, shale oil could propel America, currently No. 3 in oil production, back to the top of the oil producing heap.

McClendon said he expects the number of natural-gas powered vehicles to reach 16 million by 2035. Today that number stands at 145,000. Power plants and chemical producers are also upping their use of natural gas. McClendon believes that the U.S. could begin exporting natural gas by 2015.

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), the world’s largest publicly owned oil company, is getting in on the shale oil act. The company said last month that it’s shifting its focus to shale oil drilling – in the U.S. and abroad. But shale drilling is much more advanced in the U.S., so production here will progress a lot quicker than places such as China or Poland.

And with Exxon leading the way, you can bet that the shale oil business is about to boom. That’s reason enough to believe McClendon’s assertion that the U.S. will soon be the world’s leading oil producer again.

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