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October 7, 2013

American Oil and Gas Production: A World Leader

The United States is fast becoming the world’s largest combined producer of oil and natural gas.

Ten years ago no one would have predicted the news that, based on Russian production forecasts for 2013, the United States would be the world’s largest combined producer of oil and natural gas. Back then “peak oil” was the topic of discussion, and hydraulic fracturing was a barely-used technology. As it turns out, the market and technology have led to a renaissance in America’s oil and gas industry, and this despite a president whose policies have been overtly hostile to the industry.

Note this statistic is based on combined oil and natural gas production, but while Saudi Arabia is still the king of the oil producers, America is in third place behind Russia and catching up fast. And because of this newfound bounty, the United States is no longer importing as much oil – imports are down 15% over the last five years. This keeps prices down and allows other nations to more easily secure supplies.

Yet those naysayers who believed they could corner a “peak oil” market are skeptical that America can keep up the pace. The head of Russia’s Gazprom called our shale output “a bubble that will soon burst,” a sentiment echoed by OPEC chief Abdallah Salem el-Badri, who made the assessment that our shale boom would run out by decade’s end. But given America’s newfound abundance, one would expect them to cast our success in a negative light.

Indeed, it appears that the largest potential problem would be one self-inflicted: overly broad restrictions on fracking or other means of extraction, or an American-led economic contraction due to profligate spending policies. If we can avoid those pitfalls, the potential is there for America to control its own energy destiny and limit imports to those from our own continent, leaving Russia and Saudi Arabia to fend for themselves in other world markets.

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