Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

U.S. set for fracking bonanza, says historian Ferguson

By Andrew Stevens, CNN
updated 4:05 PM EST, Fri November 23, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Historian Niall Ferguson says America could be set for a new economic boom
  • Says production of natural gas and oil from shale formations will have enormous implications
  • International Energy Agency: U.S. to pass Saudi Arabia as world's biggest oil producer by end of decade
  • IEA says this could put Washington near energy independence within 20 years

Hong Kong (CNN) -- If there's been one consistent thread running through the U.S. economic story since 2008, it's been the steady drumbeat of gloom.

Outright recession or sub-standard growth, stubbornly high unemployment and fiscal crises have been the topics du jour when it comes to the world's biggest economy.

But now an unlikely champion for U.S. growth under the Obama administration has emerged -- a former adviser to a Republican Party presidential candidate and Harvard history professor, Niall Ferguson, who says America could actually be heading toward a new economic "golden age."

And it has nothing to do with Washington and everything to do with energy.

Read: Can natural gas live up to potential?

Ferguson, who is also an author and commentator, believes the production of natural gas and oil from shale formations via a process known as "fracking" -- forcing open rocks by injecting fluid into cracks -- will be a game changer.

What in the world?
To frack or not to frack
Fracking boom lifts India's poor
CNN Explains: Fracking

"This is an absolutely huge phenomenon with massive implications for the U.S. economy, and I think most people are still a little bit slow to appreciate just how big this is," he said in Hong Kong this week.

"Conceivably it does mean a new golden age."

Read: Debate over fracking, quakes gets louder

U.S. energy production has been booming in recent years. The International Energy Agency made a jaw-dropping forecast two weeks ago that the U.S. would pass Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer by the end of this decade -- and would achieve near energy independence by the 2030s.

That energy boom, asserts Ferguson, will create jobs in the United States. Lots of jobs.

The energy sector currently supports 1.7 million American jobs directly or indirectly, according to economic forecaster IHS global Insight. That could rise to 3 million by 2020, it says.

"It's not only in the extraction industry and infrastructure, but more importantly cheap energy is going to create employment in manufacturing. I think you'll see a renaissance in manufacturing," said Ferguson.

"That is being helped by the fact U.S. labor costs have been pretty competitive over the past decade, even as labor costs are going up in China."

Alaska drilling: From 'hell no!' to... 'OK"

It is also, he says, a big deal for the dollar. "As the U.S. moves towards energy independence and becoming the biggest producer in the world, the dollar can only benefit. Anybody who thought the financial crisis was going to lead to the demise of the dollar as an international currency is wrong -- it's quite the opposite."

And what of U.S. engagement in the Middle East?

Ferguson says it would be naive to assume that Washington would withdraw in any significant way from the region.

"Nobody is going to step in and take the job of being global policeman in charge of Middle Eastern stability. I think everyone would be nervous, if the Chinese suddenly volunteered to take that job on, which by the way they are not going to do anytime soon," he said.

Protesters: Jobs not worth the environmental risk

For the recently reelected U.S. president though, the energy boom looks like it could provide a welcome tailwind for his second term.

It's something that Ferguson acknowledges -- though one suspects through gritted teeth.

As a supporter of Mitt Romney he penned a controversial pre-election cover story in Newsweek headlined "Hit the Road, Barack," which was highly critical of the president's first term.

He concedes the irony that the president will now be the beneficiary of the "good times that lie ahead."

Opinion: Oil and wildlife

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:36 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
updated 12:34 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing uncomfortable questions, David Clark writes.
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.
updated 5:02 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Macau has overtaken Switzerland in the wealth stakes, being named the world's fourth richest territory by the World Bank.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Saudi Arabian Bateel brand is best known for its delectable dates but it now has more than a dozen cafes and a new bakery in the works.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material. It is so dark the human eye can't discern its shape and form.
updated 12:02 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Jibo robot is designed to be an organizer, educator and assist family members. CNN's Maggie Lake met him and says she was impressed with his skills.
updated 5:09 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
American burger joints have sprung up all over London, but how to know which ones are best? CNN's Jim Boulden investigates.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
At the last football World Cup, it was all about 3D. This time around, it's nothing less than 4K.
updated 6:58 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Exotic animals are becoming a profitable business opportunity for Nicaraguan entrepreneurs. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.
updated 6:58 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
The UK capital promotes its tech stars and shows it can compete with Silicon Valley. Here are five companies that pitch to make it big.
ADVERTISEMENT