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U.S. Set to Become Net Energy Exporter for First Time Since 1953

President Eisenhower would be pleased: the U.S. will become a net energy exporter next year, for the first entire year since 1953, and may remain so through 2050, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest projections.

The reference projection assumes no changes in pertinent laws and assumes a predictable economy. The annual report also includes some so-called “side” cases in which global oil prices are much higher or lower than at present or in which technologies change.

The U.S. became a net oil exporter at one point late last year thanks to the on-going technology revolution that has enabled it to extract oil and natural gas from its massive shale reserves. The EIA’s projections refer to net annual imports and exports.

“It’s a big deal. We’re not as reliant on foreign oil as we were,” global energy strategist Michael Tran told CNN Business. It is also playing havoc with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), due to its influence on global hydrocarbon prices.

The boom in hydrocarbon production will shape the mix of carbon dioxide emissions coming from the energy sector: while more electricity will come from natural gas and oil, less will come from nuclear power and coal, the EIA projects. Overall carbon dioxide emissions may drop somewhat thanks to the change in energy sources.

An important assumption in the projection is that U.S. overall energy use will remain more or less flat, even as the economy grows, thanks to more efficient technology and tighter restrictions on pollution.