Coal country: rescuers at a mine in Heilongjiang Province, China, November 2009.

Most observers agree that the United States, propelled by its boom in oil and gas production, is becoming increasingly central to global energy. As oil prices have plummeted, American oil producers have taken credit. As U.S. imports have fallen, foreign policy thinkers have suggested that Washington could rely far less on the Middle East. As U.S. firms have prepared to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), market watchers have braced for a transformation of global natural gas markets and, as a result, geopolitics. And as U.S. energy companies have begun to capitalize on shale gas and renewable energy

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