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UpFront: Energy Revolution Here to Stay







By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief

As a nation, we’ve already crossed the threshold and entered a new era of energy production. Consider: the US Energy Information Administration estimates that the US will be the world’s top producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2013, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

But if you’ve had any concerns whether this energy revolution, being spawned by unconventional oil and gas extraction, is just a passing fancy, fear not: The oil and gas industry is set for another year of record investment. “A sustained period of high levels of oil and gas infrastructure investment will continue through the end of the decade,” said a recent report from the consultancy IHS Global Inc. IHS estimates that "between $85–$90 billion of direct capital will be allocated toward oil and gas infrastructure in 2014. Between 2014 and 2020, IHS projects that an average of greater than $80 billion will be invested annually.”

Will this help the economy? You betcha. IHS estimates it will add at least 900,000 jobs, contribute $94 billion to GDP and boost tax revenues by about $21 billion through 2025.

But, really, this energy revolution is so much bigger than oil and gas. Because a clean technology revolution is also firmly underfoot and is situated to grow, even as it competes with oil and gas energy. A recent Department of Energy report, “Revolution Now: The Future Arrives for Four Clean Energy Technologies,” notes there has been incredible growth in solar and wind power, LED lights and electric cars. “The historic shift to a cleaner, more domestic and more secure energy future is not some far away goal,” the report says. “We are living it, and it is gaining force.”

For example, last year was a banner year for the solar industry, with year-over-year growth expected to reach about 30% and US residential installations leading the way, according to the third-quarter US Solar Market Insight Report. At the same time, wind power capacity has more than tripled in the US since 2008. With production tax credits extended for the industry, the American Wind Energy Association says more than 2300 MW in wind capacity is now slated across 13 states, with Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington and Kansas seeing a large number of projects. 

Heck—even coal is enjoying a healthy stretch in the sun, with new scrubbing technologies that can remove sulfur dioxide. In fact, according to the EIA, coal production is expected to remain constant over the next three decades.

So whether you're in the business of making pipelines and pumps or rotor blades and batteries, carpe diem!


This article was first published in the February 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 2/1/2014

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