Exploration and drilling for oil in America's newfound shale fields has unleashed a game-changing byproduct – enormous pools of natural gas that could meet the nation's energy needs for the next century.
In fact, the discoveries are so colossal they're set to rattle energy markets around the planet.
"North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world," the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its 2013 medium-term report.
But the first place to feel the effects will be right here at home.
You see, the supply surge will spur a massive switch away from smog-belching diesel engines to clean-burning, natural gas-powered vehicles.
Natural Gas Prices Tilt the Energy Market
Excessive drilling and exploration in shale fields drove natural gas prices to lows of around $2 per million British thermal units (mbtu) in 2012.
In fact, natural gas prices were so low that it became more economical for producers to simply burn or "flare" it at the wellhead as an unwanted byproduct.
But that's all changing now.
Prices have recovered to roughly $4 mbtu, as producers have begun to cut back.
But even at those levels, natural gas runs about $1.50 less per gallon than gasoline or diesel, so converting vehicles to natural gas remains attractive.
"Cheap and abundant natural gas has already facilitated the transition of the U.S. economy towards broader use of [natural gas for transport fuels]," the IEA report stated. "Natural gas will increase its share of road transport fuels to 2.5% in 2018 from 1.4% in 2010."
That may not sound like much, but the implications are enormous…