U.S. Oil Production Jumps

Hydraulic fracturing has been turning the U.S. into a big producer of natural gas. Now it's brightening prospects for an oil boom in the U.S. as well. The Energy Information Agency reports that 2011 was the best year the county has had for oil production since the late 1990s. The biggest reason for that turnaround is a surge in drilling in Texas and North Dakota shale oil fields.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with falling oil prices.

The price for crude oil is the lowest it's been since last fall. That's partly because oil production is up in Saudi Arabia. It's also up in the United States, as NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: The U.S. Energy Information Agency says oil production in the country jumped 6 percent from October to March. The country is pumping out more crude each day than it has since the late 1990s. Some of that is because offshore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is rising after the setback of the massive BP oil spill. But the biggest reason is the new success companies are having getting oil out of shale rock formations, like the Eagle Ford in Texas and Bakken in North Dakota.

AMY MYERS JAFFE: It really is going to be transformative.

SHOGREN: Amy Myers Jaffe is an energy expert at Rice University.

JAFFE: In the global scheme of things, a million barrels a day, which is what we're going to see by next year from the shale oil in the United States, I mean, that's already a big number.

SHOGREN: She says even now it's helping push down oil prices. And she predicts shale oil will bring about a renaissance of oil production in the United States that will keep reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

Energy analyst Kevin Book says it surprised everybody that we have this resource and that we have so much of it.

KEVIN BOOK: And the potential is tremendous. Because one thing we know about shale is that it's basically everywhere.

SHOGREN: Ohio, California and Florida are only some of the states that might join the boom.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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