This week, several news outlets highlighted a letter written by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal warning that rising shale production from North America is “an inevitable threat” to Saudi Arabia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). As he further explained, “The world is increasingly less dependent on oil from OPEC countries including the kingdom,” a direct result of increased production in the United States and Canada.
How things have changed. For years politicians told us that we only have “two percent” of the world’s oil, so as long as we use oil we’ll always be dependent on OPEC. Now the tables have completely turned: A Saudi Prince is now openly concerned about what North American production will do to OPEC’s market share!
Prince Alwaleed wrote his letter around the same time that OPEC was also starting to realize that, because of American shale production, its market outlook is less rosy: as one OPEC official put it, “Some member countries are really suffering from U.S. shale oil.” A little over a month later, OPEC predicted that demand for its crude oil will be significantly diminished next year (by about by 300,000 barrels a day) due to the North American shale boom. The International Energy Agency (IEA) sees this trend continuing for years to come: it released a report in May finding that North America will provide 40 percent of new oil supplies by 2018, while OPEC’s contributions will decline to 30 percent, putting North America on the path to being “all but self-sufficient” by 2035.
And it doesn’t stop with OPEC. In April, the Russian Academy of Science said that crude oil exports from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, could drop 17 percent by 2040 because of increased American shale production (more on that here).
Who would have thought we’d ever have this kind of power over OPEC – and by extension the global oil market? By the way, this is just the beginning – we’re only a few years into a shale revolution that has transformed our economy for the better and put us on a fast track towards achieving energy security. And as even the Saudis begrudgingly acknowledge, there’s a lot more where that came from.