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The New Energy Paradigm: America’s Shift From Scarcity to Abundance

Concerns about fracking, including in this oil field in the Southwestern Los Angeles neighborhood of Baldwin Hills, triggered the state to pass a law regulating the practice last month.
National Journal
Amy Harder Patrick Reis
Oct. 14, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

The U.S. en­ergy land­scape has quite lit­er­ally been turned on its head. In 2007, ex­perts feared we were run­ning out of nat­ur­al gas. Today the U.S. is the world’s largest pro­du­cer. In 2005, Con­gress passed a law to di­lute gas­ol­ine, try­ing to wean the coun­try from for­eign oil. Today, we’re on track to be the world’s biggest oil pro­du­cer with­in the dec­ade.

In short, Amer­ica is mov­ing from scarcity to abund­ance when it comes to en­ergy re­sources — and that cre­ates win­ners and losers.

While few would ar­gue that Amer­ica’s en­ergy boom is a bad thing, ripples of change are be­ing felt very dif­fer­ently across the coun­try, from Col­or­ado’s nat­ur­al-gas fields to coal-de­pend­ent com­munit­ies in Ken­tucky.

To bet­ter un­der­stand these changes, Na­tion­al Journ­al in­ter­viewed scores of people in six states — North Dakota, Cali­for­nia, Col­or­ado, Ken­tucky, West Vir­gin­ia, and Mas­sachu­setts. We spoke with in­dustry ex­ec­ut­ives on the ground in North Dakota, man­aging the en­ergy riches flow­ing from the Bakken form­a­tion; act­iv­ists in Cali­for­nia, strug­gling to pre­serve their life­style on an oil-rich shoreline; and politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton, striv­ing to pro­duce sens­ible en­ergy policy amid a di­vided gov­ern­ment.

The res­ult is a por­trait of a na­tion in trans­ition, in which dec­ades-old ideas are fall­ing fast, with ma­jor im­plic­a­tions for the eco­nomy, the en­ergy sec­tor, polit­ics, and the en­vir­on­ment — a new en­ergy paradigm.