According to the “World Energy Outlook 2012,” report recently released by the International Energy Agency, the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the largest global oil producer by 2020, and become a net oil exporter by 2030. The report also predicts that by 2015 the U.S. will surpass Russia as the biggest producer of natural gas. These predicted shifts are driven by the recent increases in U.S. oil and gas production, which were spurred by upstream technology developments like hydraulic fracturing.

Fatih Birol, chief economist at IEA, told New York Times, “the agency’s prediction of increasing American self-sufficiency was 55 percent a reflection of more oil production and 45 percent a reflection of improving energy efficiency in the United States, primarily from the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards for cars.”

What barriers stand in the way of the U.S. achieving this energy market position? What are the costs and benefits of the US becoming a net energy exporter?