When the history of the twenty first century is written, one of the defining aspects that will be written about will be the invention/discovery of hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling and the commercial exploitation of shale gas and shale oil.
It is unfortunate that the discovery of something so transformational has happened in the depths of the biggest economic and financial market slumps in a century. It is the nature of the present environment that prevents us from fully appreciating the impact of what has happened.
The population of the world recently touched 7 billion and if projections are to be believed, the world will have a population of 9 billion by the year 2050. The Economist newspaper published a special report last year called The 9 billion people question (http://www.economist.com/node/18200618).
The two things that are needed for the planet to sustain 9 billion people and to offer them increasingly higher standards of living are food and fresh water. If we have sufficient and affordable energy, these two problems are solved.
While the world has become concerned about its carbon footprint and there has been a previously unimagined level of government focus on green energy and subsidies to encourage it, I believe that commercially affordable and ubiquitous green energy is at least 50 years away. However, the discovery of affordable shale gas and shale oil gives us the window required to sustain higher standards of living for a world population headed to 9 billion even as we work on perfecting the economics and utilization of green energy.
I believe that the world is on the precipice of a gas and oil boom with the US at the forefront. The next big thing is still going to come from the US. No, it will not be web 4.0, it will be conventional energy.