Edwin Drake’s oil rig at Titusville, Pennsylvania, circa 1859
Oil and natural gas production in the United States is the highest it has been in two decades. For the first time in generations, the nation is poised to free itself from dependence on imported oil. At least that is what many forecasters are saying. The industry that was born in the United States and that drove the nation’s rise as a global power is making a historic comeback.
The United States is still the largest consumer of oil, but it once was the world’s leading producer. As early as 1909, total US oil production exceeded that produced in all the countries of the world combined. In the early 1800s the Industrial Revolution had led to a search for a cheaper and more convenient fuel than coal. In 1859 the town of Titusville, Pennsylvania, was the site of the first well that tapped oil at its source underground. Drilled by Edwin Drake, the well produced 25 barrels per day, a puny amount by today’s standards. Texas surpassed Pennsylvania in the early 1900s as the state producing the most oil, owing to the Spindletop discovery.
The formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1960 marked a shift in the global oil economy, and the wealth that goes with it—away from the United States. But the US oil industry is regaining significant clout. Vast reserves of oil and natural gas are being discovered and tapped in North America because of innovative technologies. Horizontal drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing) allow access to fossil fuel resources trapped deep within rock formations. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the United States will pass Russia as the largest non-OPEC producer by sometime in 2015—and overtake Saudi Arabia as the world leader by the end of the decade.
Image credit: © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
- Power Shift: Energy Boom Dawning in America
Learn about the resurgence of the US oil and gas industry; includes an infographic on fracking, and an interactive map on locations of the boom.
(Source: NBC News, March 18, 2013)
- U.S. Oil Boom Leaves OPEC Sidelined from Demand Growth
This article focuses on changes in the global oil economy brought on by the growth in US production; includes a chart comparing OPEC and non-OPEC countries, and a video interview with the director of the IEA.
(Source: Reuters, May 14, 2013)
- Oil Industry
This historical overview of the oil industry in the United States stops short of the recent boom; see also Spindletop.
(Source: History.com; accessed May 31, 2013)
- U.S. Field Production of Crude Oil
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration portray the rise and fall of US oil production from the 1860s to today; see also Countries for an interactive world map and the EIA’s figures from 2011 comparing oil production internationally.
(Source: EIA; accessed May 31, 2013)