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US crude production -- not quite up to the hype, but still a notable upturn [ClearOnMoney]
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US crude production -- not quite up to the hype, but still a notable upturn

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Commentary

US crude production -- not quite up to the hype, but still a notable upturn

9 Jan 2013 by Jim Fickett.

As the fracking revolution spreads from gas to oil, we are seeing a notable upturn in crude production:

(Net imports and production are from the Energy Information Administration, and are for crude oil only, not including natural gas liquids. Both curves above show a 12-month moving average ending at the indicated month, to smooth seasonal variation.)

This is certainly an interesting development, and could have significant benefits for the US economy. As usual, however, the news coverage is somewhat over-hyped. Bloomberg reports:

Fracking Pushes U.S. Oil Production to Highest in 20 Years

U.S. oil production exceeded 7 million barrels a day for the first time since March 1993 as improved drilling techniques boosted exploration across the country and reinforced a shift toward energy independence.

The Energy Department reported today that weekly average output rose to 7.002 million barrels a day in the week ended Jan. 4, a 1.16 million-barrel increase from the same week last year. The country met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first nine months of 2012, on pace to be the highest annual rate since 1991, department data show.

It is true that the (weekly) production level is the highest in 20 years. However seen in the context of the longer-term history, it is not really clear how significant the recent upturn may be, particularly given the example of natural gas, where the rapid increase in production was driven by uneconomic drilling, and so cannot really be extrapolated.

The meme about energy independence is quite silly. That “83 percent of its energy needs” is simply counting the total heat value. Even if the nation does come to produce enough coal, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and oil that burning them all would produce the same heat value as what is consumed in total, that hardly means “independence” from OPEC, which would require the net imports line in the above graph going to zero. For now, that continues to look most unlikely.