The surge in natural gas production has occurred alongside a major increase in oil output. Last year, U.S. production rose by about 800,000 barrels per day, the biggest annual increase since 1859. This year, it is expected to climb by another 600,000 barrels per day. And that has helped spur a huge increase in exports. Yes, exports. In July, the U.S. exported an average of nearly 3.9 million barrels of refined products per day, up from a paltry 211,000 barrels per day in 1973.
At the same time, OPEC’s oil production has been languishing. Ongoing conflicts in Libya, Nigeria and Iraq have reduced output. Iran remains hamstrung by Western sanctions over its nuclear program. In Venezuela, where crime and inflation are soaring, oil production stands at its 1994 level, about 2.7 million barrels per day.
Considered as a whole, OPEC member countries have a combined population of some 429 million — about 115 million more than the U.S. — yet their combined GDP is $3.3 trillion, a fourth that of the U.S. OPEC’s per-capita GDP is $7,800, which is about 62 percent of the world average and less than one-sixth that of the U.S., which is nearly $50,000.
OPEC-bashing makes for good political sound bites. But the reality is that the U.S. does not need to achieve energy independence. It is becoming ever more interdependent in the global energy market. And that’s a good thing. Yes, we still import oil, but we then export increasing amounts of it in the form of diesel fuel and other manufactured products. We are also exporting increasing amounts of coal. And we may soon export significant volumes of natural gas and domestic crude.
Forty years of hand-wringing over the evils of OPEC is enough. The energy superpower of today is the United States.