Politics, cash meet as United States' gas drilling boom rattles Russia
By Kevin Begos, AP
October 2, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
PITTSBURGH--The Kremlin is watching, European nations are rebelling, and some suspect Moscow is secretly bankrolling a campaign to derail the West's strategic plans.
It's not some Cold War movie; it's about the U.S. boom in natural gas drilling, and the political implications are enormous.
Like falling dominoes, the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is shaking up world energy markets from Washington to Moscow to Beijing. Some predict what was once unthinkable: that the U.S. won't need to import natural gas in the near future, and that Russia could be the big loser.
"This is where everything is being turned on its head," said Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. "Their days of dominating the European gas markets are gone."
Any nations that trade in energy could potentially gain or lose.
"The relative fortunes of the United States, Russia, and China — and their ability to exert influence in the world — are tied in no small measure to global gas developments," Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government concluded in a report this summer.
The story began to unfold a few years ago, as advances in drilling opened up vast reserves of gas buried in deep shale rock, such as the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania and the Barnett, in Texas.