U.S. Becomes Less Dependent On Foreign Oil

The Department of Energy projects domestic oil production in the U.S. will grow faster than consumption in coming years. That means the country needs to import much less oil in the future.

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There is more evidence that the United States is becoming less dependent on foreign oil. The Department of Energy has new projections showing the country could reduce its share of imported oil by nearly half of what the country was using just a couple years ago.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: There is an oil boom under way in the U.S. It's happening in places like North Dakota, which has become the number two state for oil production behind Texas.

Controversial drilling technologies like hydraulic fracturing are bringing in millions more barrels of oil and reversing a nearly three-decade production decline in the U.S. At the same time production is growing, demand is declining which means fewer imports.

Adam Sieminski heads the Energy Information Administration.

ADAM SIEMINSKI: In 2005, we were importing some 60 percent of our oil consumption.

BRADY: Last year, it was down to 45 percent and looking out a few years, Siemenski says the share of imports shrinks even more.

SIEMINSKI: The closest that we come is roughly 2019, 2020, and we could be down to 34 percent.

BRADY: That projection is part of an annual energy outlook Sieminski's agency released yesterday. He says one reason oil production is increasing quickly right now, is low natural gas prices. Many of the drilling rigs in the country that were dedicated to searching for natural gas, have switched to drilling for oil.

Projecting future supply and demand can be tricky though, it's difficult to predict human behavior and what new technologies will be developed.

Analyst Tom Kloza with the Oil Price Information Service says he thinks these latest projections are conservative.

TOM KLOZA: If I were an odds-maker, I would say the odds are they're underestimating just how brisk the crude oil production additions are going to be within this decade.

BRADY: But don't expect to pay less for gasoline. Oil prices are based on the world market. And the Department of Energy projects those prices will continue to rise.

Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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