The New U.S. Role in Global Fossil Fuel Markets

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Bechtel Conference Center

As recently as 2007, the United States seemed headed towards ever greater fossil fuel import dependence, as domestic oil and natural gas production dwindled and consumption continued to grow. Five years later, the landscape looks dramatically different. An explosion in natural gas production from shales has overturned paradigms and sparked bold talk of LNG exports. While less remarked-upon, unconventional oil production has followed suit, helping to boost liquids output 20% from 50-year lows and vaulting North Dakota ahead of Alaska to become the nation’s second-largest oil producer. A new order is emerging in the coal market as well, with efforts underway to ship cheap, low-sulfur coal from the western U.S. to China.

The new role for the U.S. as a hotbed of production and technology development for unconventional resources, a reduced import market, and a possible key exporter of natural gas and coal raises a host of political, economic, and environmental questions. The goal of this conference is to contribute to insightful and data-driven dialogue on these pressing (and often politically-charged) issues by bringing together academics, policymakers, industry experts, and other stakeholder groups.

Session topics will include: (1) the environmental and economic impacts of proposed exports of Powder River Basin coal to China; (2) which will happen first: major LNG exports from the U.S. or shale gas development at scale outside of the U.S. (and especially in China); (3) the changing role of the U.S. in the global oil market, and its geopolitical and economic implications; (4) the cases for and against pipelines connecting Canada’s oil sands with U.S. refineries; and (5) the trajectory of future natural gas demand from the U.S. transportation and power sectors.  

Each session will feature a presentation by an academic or industry expert summarizing the state of knowledge on the topic and pointing out major unresolved issues. Discussants from the policymaking and stakeholder communities will then provide their perspectives on the presentation. This will be followed by an opportunity for audience comment and discussion.