There is a lot of hot air about U.S. domestic oil and gas production. There are arguments about how policies of this president vs. that president affect domestic production; about how the industry is being constrained from being able to produce enough for our use; and about the need to encourage domestic production.
The all-too-blunt reality is that politics really havent affected the gas and oil markets very much. Nearly every politician is more than willing to push production.
U.S. crude oil production rose from 1920 through 1972. It then decreased until 2005, but has been increasing ever since.
Domestic production of natural gas has increased every year since 2004, with a huge increase every year since 2007. While the first four years of the George W. Bush administration had a reduction in production, the first Obama years have had a dramatic increase in production. The lowest production was in 2006, while 2011 had the highest.
Another argument we hear is to view domestic production policy by looking at the number of drilling rigs in operation in the country. A better way to understand them is to track oil prices, which they follow closely. As oil prices increased dramatically from 2002 through 2008, rig counts went up. In 2008 and 2009, crude oil prices dropped by more than 60 percent, and drilling dropped as well. Since then, prices and drilling have increased. In early 2011 there were more drilling rigs in operation in the U.S. than at any time from 1997 to mid-2007.
These numbers show that the political antics around domestic oil and gas production are merely a sideshow. We have had a national policy to drill ourselves to kingdom come for many years, regardless of what person or party sits in the White House.
If we look at total U.S. domestic energy production, the trend has been going up nearly every year since at least 1949, regardless of politics.
The real issue is shown in our consumption. Our energy use has gone up nearly every year since 1949. We have approximately 5 percent of the worlds population but demand more than 20 percent of the global energy production. If we compare our energy use to other industrialized nations, we find we use approximately twice per person what people in the European G8 nations use (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom).
In the coming months, you may hear cries about how natural-gas production in our area is being stifled. The driving force there is price. Because of the high domestic production, prices have plummeted. In 2008, wellhead prices reached historic highs of $8 per thousand cubic feet, and it is now under $2.70. I doubt those who will be complaining about gas-production policies will dare to argue that it should be more expensive.
Personally, I wish politics mattered more. We need a national energy policy that focuses on the real issues of overconsumption and promoting renewable production, not the tired rhetoric of increasing gas and oil production.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Dan Randolph is executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.