Last week the Energy Information Administration (EIA) told us that U.S. crude oil production in the first quarter of the year topped 6 million barrels per day (bbl/d) for the first time in 14 years. EIA’s chart:
“Strong growth in U.S. crude oil production since the fourth quarter of 2011 is due mainly to higher output from North Dakota, Texas, and federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico. … After remaining steady between 5.5 million and 5.6 million bbl/d during each of the first three quarters of 2011, EIA estimates that U.S. average quarterly oil production grew to over 5.9 million bbl/d during the fourth quarter and then surpassed 6 million bbl/d during the first quarter of 2012.”
Certainly, great news like that will restart discussion of who deserves credit for such a production milestone – beyond, of course, the energy companies that are actually pulling the oil from the ground or the seafloor. Politico Pro [subscription required] reports White House spokesman Clark Stevens emailed in the administration’s claim for credit:
“Despite misleading rhetoric by some in Washington, President Obama has made expanding responsible oil and gas production here at home a clear priority and the facts speak for themselves. Since the president took office, domestic oil and gas production has increased each year, with oil production in the first quarter of 2012 higher than any time in 14 years and natural gas production at its highest level ever, and that is certainly thanks in part to steps taken by this administration.”
That’s one view. Others disagree. Politico quotes Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service:
“In the end, the president and Congress can’t take credit for what price and technology have delivered. It would be akin to taking credit for the iPad. … Unless there is a price collapse, or a true scientific indictment of fracking, one can expect to see plentiful growth in light sweet crude coming from the Rockies, North Dakota, and even Ohio or West Virginia.”
And Richard Newell, the EIA’s head from 2009-2011:
“In a political year, different parties would like to take credit for positive news in the energy sector and I think here the credit largely goes to technology."
And also Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy fellow at Rice University, who notes that North Dakota and Texas shale production has occurred mainly on private land, while increases from the Gulf result from the actions of previous administrations:
“Production rises from Gulf of Mexico would have been in the hopper way before President Obama took office.”
Settling the argument isn’t as important as recognizing that with the right policies the oil and natural gas industry can further develop America’s energy wealth. With the right strategies and leadership, the United States could see 100 percent of its liquid fuel needs met from North American sources. And along with it: jobs and tax revenues for government.
Strategies, policies and action: It’s what separates election-year rhetoric from substantive progress toward a more secure energy future.