NEW YORK - North America's shale oil and gas boom has shifted the balance in global energy markets, giving the U.S. and Canada new leverage as exporters, despite the Middle East retaining a pivotal role.

While Canada has long been a major energy exporter, the rise of shale-based hydrocarbons has meant a crucial change for the United States, which could move from the being world's leading importer of oil to a net exporter by 2017.

It has become the gold rush of the 21st century, with tens of billions of dollars in revenues and hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

"That revolution is real," said Marvin Odum, President of Shell Oil, at a recent Platt's conference in New York.

"America suddenly has a 100 year supply of natural gas 'in the bank' and the world has 250 years -- thanks in part to breakthroughs in the technology that unlock hydrocarbons from tight rock and shale."

Since 2007, the technology of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," combined with horizontal drilling, has made possible the cost-effective exploitation of immense oil and gas resources locked up in subterranean shale strata.

The technology, also called "unconventional" production, remains highly controversial, with widespread, serious worries for the environment and the health of people living near the fracking locations.

But the impact has been stunning. In five years U.S. crude oil production has risen 32%. In 2012 alone, it has jumped 14% from the previous year, to 6.4 million barrels a day.

The U.S. Department of Energy says it could rise to 7.1 million barrels a day next year.

At that pace, the International Energy Agency predicts that the United States could become the number one producer of oil by 2017, surpassing current leaders Saudi Arabia and Russia.

And the U.S. could become totally energy-independent by 2030.