US president-elect Donald Trump hopes to achieve energy independence for his country. But even sustaining current energy production will be hard, given that US production of 'tight' oil — extracted from shale rock using fracking — is almost 20% below its March 2015 peak, and shale-gas production is 5% below its February 2016 peak.
In August 2016, the United States imported 8 million barrels of crude oil per day, or 48% of its crude-oil requirements. Tight oil currently accounts for roughly half of US oil, so its production would need to almost triple to replace current imports. This would escalate drilling rates and rapidly exhaust core supply areas, setting the stage for a medium-term production collapse and radically higher prices. Coupled with a comparably aggressive ramp-up of shale-gas production, this increased activity would compound environmental and human-health risks (see, for example, M. Finkel Nature 540, 39; 2016).
We agree with renewables specialist Daniel Kammen that low-carbon alternatives such as wind and solar are the way to go, particularly because job growth and return on investment should be more robust than those from carbon-based energy (see Nature http://doi.org/bs58; 2016).