The Truth About the Oil Revolution

 | Dec 13, 2012 | 9:20 AM EST  | Comments
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Where are the big petrochemical plants? Where are the fertilizer additions? Who is really taking advantage of the newfound cheapness of our energy?

Last night, I had Mark Papa on Mad Money. If you don't know Papa, he's the man who has discovered so much oil in the Eagle Ford and the Bakken shales that his company, EOG Resources (EOG), has actually moved the needle on cutting imports. Almost the entire change in oil production increases comes from these shales and a huge percentage of the increases are due to EOG.

We are supposed to have some sort of revolution on our hands because of all of this oil. We are supposed to be bringing down the price of oil and gas with it and making our continent energy independent. We are supposed to have some sort of industrial renaissance.

But what do we really have?

First, we have plans by two chemical companies to take advantage of what may be an incredible differential between our natural gas and "their" natural gas, which means everywhere but the oil rich Middle East.

That's not a lot of jobs.

Second, we are supposed to have some increase in fertilizer production because of the huge differential. But these companies are still not taking advantage of it and switching manufacturing here.

Third, we are expected to see a massive manufacturing shift from companies in expensive energy regimes to our own.

It's not really happening. The big job gains here come from the creation of a network to send our oil to refineries so we can export it and the creation of a transfer station to send our natural gas, in liquefied form, overseas.

There are no possibilities on the drawing board that I have seen to harness this bounty to bring lower fuel costs to consumers.

While I wholeheartedly agree that this revolution could happen, all of this is an abstraction until we use the natural gas component of our bounty as a surface fuel. A great thing is happening but isn't happening in a way that's meaningful to anyone, other than those companies that have found a lot of oil and those companies that can export refined product or use world prices to make a ton of money arbitraging the difference.

When the book is written on the revolution that is our technological change in drilling, the horizontal movement, we will marvel at two things: one, how much oil and gas was recoverable and, two, how little of it mattered to jobs, security and the American consumer.

What a terrible shame.

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