The US Energy Information Administration predicted that net imports of liquid fuels, including crude oil and petroleum products, would fall to about 6m barrels per day in 2014, their lowest level since 1987 and only about half their peak levels of more than 12m during 2004-07.
The figures reflect the spectacular growth of US production thanks to the unlocking of “tight oil” reserves using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in states led by North Dakota and Texas.
That “spectacular growth” (using whichever definition of “spectacular” you find appropriate) has meant boom times for states that sit atop shale deposits — and has made “petroleum engineer” one of the most secure jobs in the country. The Atlantic provides this chart of the jobs with the lowest unemployment rate in America:
(The oil industry is also helping keep those judges employed.)
This, too, isn’t much of a surprise; last year we noted that graduates of the South Dakota School of Mines made more money coming out of college than Harvard graduates.
You’ll be unsurprised to learn that those who extract and sell oil in the United States are enthusiastic about the ongoing boom. So enthusiastic, in fact, that they are resorting to entirely new levels of hyperbole to describe it. Again from the Financial Times:
Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry lobby group, said the US was at “a great turning point in our nation’s history”, that would “realign the energy axis toward the west and into our own control”.
It’s not entirely clear how reverting to import levels from 1987 becomes some sort of turning point in history, particularly when levels in years prior to 1987 were lower still. But how can we argue with “realigning the energy axis toward the west”? That’s the kind of dramatic language that gave us a free Iraq.
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