The shale revolution continues, speakers at the Tyler Area Energy Summit heard on Monday, and even lower crude oil prices won't threaten an industry that has achieved what was unthinkable just 10 years ago — energy independence.
"Between 2012 and 2014, the U.S. added three million barrels a day in production," said Dr. Bernard Weinstein of Southern Methodist University's Maguire Energy Institute. "We've never seen an increase in that magnitude in a two-year period… If it hadn't been for the shale revolution, the Great Recession of 2008 would have been much, much worse."
And unconventional oil and gas extraction — hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — will continue to boost the U.S. economy, he said.
He cited "lower electric power and heating costs for businesses and households, a revival of America's manufacturing sector and a number of Rust Belt cities, and a small trade deficit" as benefits of the shale revolution.
The 2015 Energy Summit was held at the University of Texas at Tyler's Ornelas Activity Center. Its focus was on the future of the industry. A record number of people, 280, attended the fifth annual event, according to organizers, including the Tyler Economic Development Council, the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, the city of Tyler and UT-Tyler.
Dr. Paul Tanaka of ExxonMobil's Strategic Planning Department spoke about the fossil fuels industry as a whole. He said that in the near future, developing nations will drive demand.
"All of the energy-demand growth we see in the future is driven by emerging markets," he said. "That means 2.7 billion people who cook with biomass fuels now will have access to natural gas and electricity for cooking and more access to modern agricultural methods to feed growing populations."
The industry, he said, "is moving a lot of people out of poverty."
Tanaka had some good news for the environment, as well. The switch from coal to natural gas in many parts of the world for electrical generation is having a big effect on greenhouse gas emissions.
"We see an increase in emissions only until the year 2030," he said. "At that point it will plateau, then we'll see a slow decline. All of the growth in emissions we'll see is in emerging nations."
Like other companies usually seen as "Big Oil," ExxonMobil is investing heavily in renewable forms of energy. But Tanaka pointed out that dependability and availability of energy sources are critical to economic development, so fossil fuels will still play an important role.
"Over time, we're going to need all of the different types of energy we have access to," he said. "That means oil, gas, coal, biomass, renewables — we'll need them all."
But the bottom line, he said, is, "We're not going to run out of energy."
Dr. Tom Tunstall agreed. He's research director at the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
He said there's an abundance of crude oil that has been sent to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, but they're operating at capacity. He called for an end to the 1970s policy that bans the export of crude oil.
"The shale revolution was completely unexpected," he said. "We expected to increase imports of oil. But because of shale, we're choking on crude oil at the Gulf."
There's a simple solution – lift the ban, he said.
"The 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports has been unnecessary, increasingly arbitrary, unproductive, and has outlived its usefulness," he said.