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The Geopolitical Consequences of the U.S. Shale Revolution

Shale fracking is a process which refers to the extraction of alternative gas, “…from the impermeable shale through a process called hydraulic fracturing” and has resulted in tremendous growth for the United States in its oil and gas sectors. This growth has enabled the U.S. to reduce its dependency upon imports from competitors such as China, increase job growth within the sector and improve the overall security of America by limiting its exposure to global markets.

 It is undeniable that the U.S. were extremely reliant on imports from Middle Eastern sources, but the ongoing shale revolution has dramatically reduced their imports, therefore reducing their dependence on competitors. It decreases the potential vulnerability of the U.S. to price fluctuations in the global market.

The U.S has enjoyed unprecedented success with the shale revolution according to Robert D. Blackwill as in the five years between 2007 and 2012 “U.S. shale gas production rose by over 50 per cent each year, and its share of total U.S. gas production jumped from five per cent to 39 per cent.”. Stemming from this are widespread geopolitical consequences such as the expected diminishment of oil and gas prices in global markets, and subsequently reducing the political weaponisation of these prices by energy controllers.

Historical Vantage Point

The United States has been described as a country with an obsessive habit toward oil. To fully understand the geopolitical implications that have arisen as a result of the shale revolution, it is necessary to quickly examine the history of the U.S. and its reliance on oil.

The United States became amassed with oil rigs in search of black gold. This launched the foothold for industrialisation in the energy sector, and along with this the general industrialisation in the 20th century lead to an increase in oil consumption. Coal became superseded by oil in the 1920s as the primary energy utilised in the transportation sector, becoming clear from this point onwards the U.S. faced the reality of reliance and was far from being in control of its supplies.

As consumption grew, so too did imports and the vulnerability of America to fluctuating prices. As the states approached the 1970s, an impending oil crisis ensued due to an oil embargo placed by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which led to a violent increase in oil prices through the global market.

Made up of eleven countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, the embargo occurred as retaliation against the United States offering its support to Israel during the war between an Arab coalition and Israel in 1973. What was on show here was just how vulnerable the U.S. had become as a result of its oil dependency.

The Shale Revolution

With the history of America’s infatuation with oil established, understanding what the shale revolution entailed for the country is vital. The embargo placed upon the global markets shunted the U.S. into becoming proactive to the point where now they rely less and less on imports. The shale revolution has effectively transformed the U.S. from dependence to a road of independence, offering a more secure position in terms of energy security.

Whilst shale fracking is not limited to the United States, it is understandable to think they are certainly the biggest benefactors of the technique as they have enough shale gas reserves to last themselves for another generation at least. While still affected by the global oil market prices, they no longer require importing nearly as many commodities due to shale fracking technology.

The resulting geopolitical benefits of the shale revolution are a multitude of great positives at both the local and state levels, with increased resources and jobs, which in turn improves the security of the United States in the global markets whilst still being subject to certain price fluctuations. Geopolitically there is a stability factor that the shale revolution has brought to the U.S. along with improved leverage in the global markets.

Continuing from this, the American shale revolution signals America to be one of the main benefactors, which comes with a set of global implications. The main crux of the consequences falls onto the Middle East, which has had a stranglehold over the energy sector as referenced with the OPEC ban which jeopardised American security.

As such, the ever-increasing freedom the U.S. experiences as a result of the shale revolution reduces the need for themselves to become implicated in entanglements with other countries, particularly in the Middle East. Security is the main result of this, leaving America less vulnerable to consequences that were previously beyond its status and control.

Geopolitical Manoeuvrability

The onslaught of geopolitical consequences that arise as a result of the shale revolution has vast geopolitical implications for several countries in the Global North and the Global South. America’s waning involvement in the Middle East and the role of OPEC diminishing is integral to a sense of growing energy independence as a result of the shale revolution. The shale revolution has seen the Global South become the main proprietor of demand for hydrocarbons, shifting away from the West as seen in the United States.

This is showcased by a growing amount of influential countries located in the Global South such as China. The strategic advantage that this grants the United States is that it essentially combats any notion of a decline occurring in America, with newfound strategic leverage being gifted to them as a result of the shale revolution.

There is a vast multitude of consequences that have enacted themselves as a result of the shale revolution in America. The breakthrough scientific process has enabled the previously import-dependent state to take steps toward becoming energy independent. Throughout America’s history, there existed a type of moral panic that they had reached peak levels of oil production.


The consequence of the shale revolution in terms of the geopolitics of America is that they no longer had to fear peak oil, instead, they had resources that would last themselves for another generation. The geopolitical consequences for the rest of the world are vast as America is undoubtedly the winner of the shale revolution, the diversification of energy has shifted the global energy map and the subsequent power that comes along with that.

Edited By Kavya Vengkateshwaran

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