Shale plays are driving a surge in U.S. natural gas production. Production growth has pushed prices well below the peaks experienced in the 2000's. Natural gas at less than $4/mmbtu, as of the end of 2012. Cheap fuel means cheaper energy, cheaper manufacturing, and cheaper products.
Natural gas or by products are used for heating, power generation, and as a feedstock in multiple chemical and manufacturing processes. A recent BCG study noted that rising factory productivity will boost U.S. exports and lead to the growth of as many as 5 million jobs. Five million jobs added to a workforce that measures approximately 150 million would be almost 3% growth from one sector of the economy. Add direct oil and gas jobs and you see why what we're experiencing in the South Texas Job boom could translate to a widespread employment boom.
U.S. factory employment has grown by about 3.6 percent to roughly 12 million people from a 2010 post-recession low, a trend that could accelerate as the United States becomes a more competitive exporter, BCG said.
With lower manufacturing costs, the U.S. could potentially boost exports by almost $100 billion per year by capturing manufacturing that is currently done over seas. The wild card will be currencies. Europe's manufacturing sector is actually benefiting from a weak currency. Energy will be cheap in the U.S., but predicting major currencies is a wildcard in my book.
Read more about the study at reuters.com