‘Energy Corridor’ could be America’s new Sunbelt“Get ready for an American century,” writes Walter Russell Mead, humanities professor at Bard College and editor-at-large of The American Interest magazine.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
“Get ready for an American century,” writes Walter Russell Mead, humanities professor at Bard College and editor-at-large of The American Interest magazine.
“That appears to be the main consequence of the energy revolution that is now causing economic and political experts to tear up their old forecasts all over the world.”
And here’s the thing: If this “American century” unfolds as Mead and others predict, it’s likely to be centered on the place where it began: North Dakota.
As every North Dakotan knows, the oil boom has transformed life in the state. But what’s new in recent months is the sense that the boom may extend far beyond the state’s borders — far enough, in fact, to affect the history of the world.
That’s no exaggeration. The United States is developing a “new geography of power,” and its focus is the “vast energy and commodities corridor extending from the western Gulf to the northern tip of the Continent” — in other words, the great American and Canadian midwests, geographer Joel Kotkin writes.
The corridor’s prospects represent not only “the anointing of new places Americans and business go to find opportunity,” but also a dramatic shift of global power, away from the Middle East and toward North America.
Moreover, “the shale/tight oil boom in the United States is not a temporary bubble, but the most important revolution in the oil sector in decades,” writes Leonardo Maugeri of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
That’s partly because the shale’s extent is so vast. For example, the Green River Formation that underlies parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming may itself contain 3 trillion barrels of oil. If even half of that oil is recoverable, then as the U.S. General Accounting Office notes, “this is an amount about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves.”
Should the United States gain something close to self-sufficiency in energy production, what will be the effect on foreign relations — with not only the Middle East but also Europe, Japan and China?
And how about domestic politics: As the “center of gravity of the global energy picture” shifts to North America, will the Great Plains become a 21st-century Sunbelt, attracting newcomers (and the congressional clout that goes with them) as did the South and Southwest in the 1900s?
Mead thinks so: “Few places are going to look more secure in the 21st century than America between the Rockies and the Appalachians,” he writes.
“Some of the world’s largest energy reserves will be sited next to the world’s most fertile crop land. Geopolitically, few places on earth are as secure from war; politically, few can match its record of stable governance; legally, few offer as much protection for property rights; and few have as long a record of offering foreign investors the equal protection of the law.”
Kotkin seems to think so, too: “The pundit class may be ready to write off the American dream, but many Midwest states are working to restore it.” Then there’s Maugeri, who thinks that “the natural endowment of the initial American shale play, Bakken/Three Forks in North Dakota and Montana, could become a big Persian Gulf producing country within the United States.”
Not bad for a place only recently predicted to become a Buffalo Commons, eh?