Without fanfare, China passed the United States in December to become the world’s leading importer of oil – the first time in nearly 40 years that the U.S. didn’t own that dubious distinction. That same month, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania together produced 1.5 million barrels of oil a day — more than Iran exported.

As those data points demonstrate, a dramatic shift is occurring in how energy is being produced and consumed around the world – one that could lead to far-reaching changes in the geopolitical order.

U.S. policy makers, intelligence analysts and other experts are beginning to grapple with the ramifications of such a change, which could bring with it both great benefits for the U.S. and potentially dangerous consequences, including the risk of upheaval in countries and regions heavily dependent on oil exports.

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