For all the attention devoted to soaring natural gas production from America’s shale regions – including what it means for job creation and manufacturing, consumer electric bills, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – perhaps it’s no surprise that few people are aware of an equally significant increase in U.S. oil production.
The welcome reality is completely the opposite. Production from U.S. oilfields is rapidly climbing, and the dramatic increase in output from states like North Dakota and Texas over the past several years is a story no less compelling than that of natural gas.
Consider this: Since early 2011, U.S. oil production has jumped nearly 50 percent, from 5.4 million barrels per day to the current daily production rate of 8.1 million barrels.
That’s an increase of 2.7 million barrels produced in the United States every day.
How significant is that? America’s recent increase – not the total production figure, just the increase – is more than the daily production from major oil-producing nations like Venezuela, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Angola, and Libya.
And U.S. production is still growing. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that production in the United States will reach 9.3 million barrels per day by the end of 2015. That would represent about a 70 percent increase from early 2011.
Think about it this way: If it were its own country, the 3.9 million barrels per day that increase represents would rank sixth overall on the list of global oil producers, ahead of every OPEC nation except Saudi Arabia.
As with natural gas, these soaring oil-production numbers are transforming energy markets and upending traditional notions of American energy scarcity, with attendant economic and national security benefits.
President Obama highlighted these benefits a year ago:
The other big piece of this is that the transformation and energy could have a huge geopolitical consequence. The United States is going to be a net exporter of energy because of new technologies and what we’re doing with natural gas and oil. We’ve, during my first four years, reduced our dependence on foreign oil each and every year; we’re now down to under 50 percent. We can maintain those trend lines.
Maintaining those trend lines will depend on how policymakers answer a number of questions, most notably having to do with declining domestic gasoline consumption, changing market dynamics for American refineries, and the removal of arbitrary barriers to exporting certain energy products that were installed during the OPEC embargoes of the 1970s.
The American oil and gas industry has shown just some of what we can do. These recent achievements have made the nation stronger both economically and geopolitically. Now it’s up to our elected representatives to ensure this strong performance continues.