For the US, aspiring to be merely energy independent is “too modest,” says Manhattan Institute Adjunct Fellow Mark Mills.

Instead, the US should collaborate with Canada and Mexico to not only fulfill domestic needs but make North America the world’s largest energy supplier, Mills says in a new report, “Unleashing the North American Energy Colossus.”

It has been nearly 40 years since President Richard Nixon set a US goal of energy independence, Mills told a Capitol Hill forum, but it’s only now that the nation is “on the verge of radical change,” with the US now the world’s fastest growing producer of oil and natural gas.

In those four decades, he said, researchers have chased “the chimera of a perfect alternative to hydrocarbons,” but the game-changing technology didn’t develop in clean energies but in the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that unlocked shale resources.

Mills said the new drilling activity is already creating jobs and prosperity around the nation. He cited analyst studies contending expanded oil and gas extraction could create over a million jobs as well as hundreds of millions, or billions, in new tax revenues for local, state and federal governments.

Creating a Regional Energy Powerhouse

With world demand for hydrocarbons forecast to continue growing, Mills said the US should initiate a “collaboration” modeled on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

Those nations are both major oil producers already, and have untapped resources including producing shale formations in Texas that extend deep into Mexico.

“The (resource) numbers are staggering,” said Mills, adding the three North American nations have the potential to export more fossil energy than the Middle East.

Kevin O’Shea, Minister (Political) at the Canadian Embassy, said his government would like to work with the US on an integrated energy marketplace. He noted Canada is already the largest supplier of oil, electricity and uranium to the US. Mexico was the third largest US oil supplier in 2011.

Mills pointed to Canada’s effort to streamline natural resources permitting, the “single portal policy,” as an initiative the US should also follow. O’Shea said the effort involved slashing the number of agencies an applicant has to deal with while ensuring “responsible” development.

…Russia, Venezuela and Iran need high oil prices to “deliver the goodies” that keep their governments in power,” – Morse

Jamie Webster, Senior Consultant, PFC Energy, said American potential hasn’t escaped notice. Investment capital used to flow from the US to oilfields elsewhere, like Africa. Now, he said, investment from other nations is coming into the US.

Mills said eliminating oil imports would mean the US could avoid spending billions to protect far-flung supply lines. Former Sen. James Talent, Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said turning North America into an energy exporter would “with one stroke, reverse the sense the US is in decline” and reduce world tensions.

Ed Morse, Global Head of Commodities Research for Citi, said the transformation from energy importer to exporter could help eliminate the US trade deficit and make a big dent in the national deficit, but he cautioned it wouldn’t be seen as positive everywhere.

Nations like Russia, Venezuela and Iran need high oil prices to “deliver the goodies” that keep their governments in power, said Morse. North American abundance would depress the world oil price, and could actually result in “significant instability” globally, he said.