IEA: U.S. to lead in oil output by 2020

The United States will become the world's largest oil producer by around 2020, temporarily overtaking Saudi Arabia, as new exploration technologies help find more resources, the International Energy Agency forecast Monday.

In its World Energy Outlook, the energy watchdog also predicted that greater oil and natural gas production and more efficient use of energy will allow the United States, which now imports about 20 percent of its energy, to become nearly self-sufficient around 2035.

The IEA added that global trends in the energy markets will be influenced by some countries' retreat from nuclear power, the fast spread of wind and solar technologies and a rise in unconventional gas production.

The agency concluded that despite the rising use of low-carbon energy sources, huge subsidies will keep fossil fuels "dominant in the global energy mix." "Taking all new developments and policies into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path," the IEA said.

By 2015, U.S. oil production is expected to rise to 10 million barrels per day before increasing to 11.1 million barrels per day by 2020, overtaking second-place Russia and front-runner Saudi Arabia. The United States will export more oil than it brings into the country in 2030.

Around the same time, however, Saudi Arabia will be producing some 11.4 million barrels per day of oil, outpacing the 10.2 million from the United States. In 2035, U.S. production will slip to 9.2 million barrels per day, far behind the Middle Eastern nation's 12.3 million barrels per day. Iraq will exceed Russia to become the world's second-largest oil exporter.

At that point, real oil prices will reach $125 a barrel. By then, however, the United States won't be relying much on foreign energy, according to the IEA's report.

Global energy needs are forecast to increase by a third by 2035, with 60 percent of the additional demand coming from China, India and the Middle East. Globally, the energy economy will undergo a "sea change," according to the report. -- With the Los Angeles Times

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