World power swings back to America…(?)
The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
23 Oct 2011
Assumptions that the Great Republic must inevitably spiral into economic and strategic decline – so like the chatter of the late 1980s, when Japan was in vogue – will seem wildly off the mark by then.
Telegraph readers already know about the “shale gas revolution” that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.
Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing – breaking rocks with jets of water – will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.
“The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d),” said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea.
Total US shale output is “set to expand dramatically” as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009.
The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago.
“The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players,” said Mr Blanch.
Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, ‘re-inshoring’ is the new fashion.
“Made in America, Again” – a report this month by Boston Consulting Group – said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the “default location” for cheap plants supplying the US.
A “tipping point” is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.
“A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back,” said BCG’s Harold Sirkin.
The gap in “productivity-adjusted wages” will narrow from 22pc of US levels in 2005 to 43pc (61pc for the US South) by 2015. Add in shipping costs, reliability woes, technology piracy, and the advantage shifts back.