In this Tuesday, March 6, 2012, file photo taken with a long exposure, a pumping unit sucks oil from the ground near Greensburg, Kan. U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer. U.S. production of oil and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent in 2012 to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. It's the fourth straight year of crude increases, and this year drillers are on track to post the biggest single year gain since 1951. .
Gas prices and oil production have not provided either political party with a clear advantage this year. For consumers, prices remain high. At the same time, however, oil production in the United States never has been so good.
The Associated Press reported this week that a four-year surge in oil production, including a 7 percent gain this year alone, has moved the U.S. into second place in the world, and it is on pace to surpass Saudi Arabia in a few years to become the world's leader in oil exports.
This is politically inconvenient to both major parties in the race for the White House. Republicans like to criticize Democrats for standing in the way of more drilling. Democrats, meanwhile, can't gain much political mileage out of the surge because pump prices remain high.
However, it is a good thing for consumers and for national security. The key now is to continue the trend by every means possible and desirable. Even with the increased production, the U.S. still needs to import oil, but the boom is changing calculations. By 2020, the U.S. could be producing up to 15 million barrels a day, but consumers today use about 18.7 million barrels a day, and that figure is expected to rise. However, if Americans combine this new surge in domestic production with oil imported from friendly Canada, they could take care of a great deal of their own needs without having to rely much on despotic oil-rich countries that use energy as a weapon. The U.S. also could have greater control over oil markets, which are heavily influenced by world events and conditions.
In addition, the U.S. needs to continue promoting the use of alternative fuels for vehicles, reducing the reliance on oil and increasing the nation's ability to provide its own needs. In addition to oil, natural gas production is at an all-time high, and the known reserves of both have increased greatly in recent years.
Fracking is responsible for much of this. That is a controversial extraction method that involves injecting water into rock formations to free gas or oil. Horizontal drilling methods and new methods for extracting oil from shale formations also have added to production.
But most of this extraction is taking place on private land, which is why North Dakota and Texas have seen a boom in energy related jobs. Utah lags behind, although it has impressive underground reserves of its own, because much of its land is publicly owned and Washington has been slow to approve leases.
In addition, the Obama administration's reluctance to allow construction of Canada's Keystone XL pipeline through the continental U.S. has encouraged Canada to send its oil to China and elsewhere. It ought to come here, instead, as a matter of national security.
This boom in oil and gas extraction has exceeded predictions and is a tremendous opportunity for the U.S.. For decades, foreign policy decisions have been made with a greater eye toward energy needs than is healthy. By reducing the dependence on foreign oil, the nation can more clearly promote its values and interests abroad.