Surging oil and gas production is almost single-handedly resolving a longstanding policy conundrum: the U.S. absorbs more in goods and services than it sends abroad.
In addition to the halo effect it has on manufacturing, the shale boom's other characteristic is how it helps pare the U.S. trade imbalance. Last week, Commerce Department data showed the June trade deficit narrowed sharply to $41.5 billion, as petroleum imports tumbled to their lowest since 2009.
The imbalance is a significant drag on economic growth and for years has hovered at levels economists consider untenable. While the U.S. has yet to reach full energy independence, the country's diminishing reliance on foreign oil—and the fact that it's shipping more of its own fuel supplies abroad—is a major driver behind why the trade gap is shrinking.
"This really is a big, big deal," said Kyle Isakower, vice president for regulatory and economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm of the oil industry. In an interview, Isakower estimated that the deficit would be at least 72 percent higher were it not for the boom.