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Exxon is bullish on U.S. energy outlook

Among the predictions Exxon made in its annual

Among the predictions Exxon made in its annual energy forecast is that the United States will soon be a net exporter of oil and natural gas. (Sept. 20, 2008) Credit: Getty

Exxon says the energy renaissance in the United States will continue and predicts that North America will become a net exporter of oil and natural gas by the middle of the next decade.

The company's annual long-term energy outlook, released Tuesday, says the rapid growth of production in the United States and Canada, along with improved energy efficiency, will lead to more oil and natural gas being sent overseas.

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s annual outlook is noted by investors and policymakers, and the company says its conclusions shape its decisions about where to invest. The main conclusions dovetail with recent forecasts from the U.S. government and others.

Among the main themes from Exxon's report:

Demand for energy will grow worldwide, but slower than the overall economy because of efficiency gains.

Energy demand will remain flat in the developed world; nearly all of the growth in demand will occur in developing countries.

The biggest shift will be growth in the use of natural gas and a decline in the use of coal. By 2025, natural gas is expected to overtake coal as the second-most used fuel, after oil.

By 2025, the United States will likely be exporting natural gas in large volumes and producing more oil while consuming less. Canada will continue to be a major crude exporter.

While Exxon does make assumptions about energy prices to make its predictions, it does not disclose what those price assumptions are.

Oil and natural gas production in the United States has surged thanks to the combination of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling that allows companies to tap hydrocarbons trapped in shale and other tight rock formations. As a result, natural gas prices have plummeted and the nation's dependence on oil imports has been dramatically reduced.

But fracking has raised environmental concerns. Opponents say drilling fluid or wastewater can seep into water supplies if wastewater is not disposed of properly.

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