Washington Post | Thomas Heath | December 31, 2017
U.S. crude oil production is flirting with record highs heading into the new year, thanks to the technological nimbleness of shale oil drillers .
The current abundance has erased memories of 1973 gas lines, which raised pump prices dramatically, traumatizing the United States and reordering its economy. In the decades since, presidents and politicians have made pronouncements calling for U.S. energy independence.
President Jimmy Carter in a televised speech compared the energy crisis of 1977 to “the moral equivalent of war.”
“It’s a total turnaround from where we were in the ’70s,” said Frank Verrastro, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Shale oil drills can now plunge deep into the earth, pivot and tunnel sideways for miles until they hit an oil pocket, Verrastro said.
The United States is so awash in oil that petroleum-rich Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil and natural gas company is reportedly interested in investing in the fertile Texas Permian Basin shale oil region, according to a report last month.
That is a far cry from the days when U.S. production was on what was thought to be an irreversible downward path.
“For years and years, we thought we were running out of oil,” Verrastro said. “It took $120 for a barrel of oil to make people experiment with technology, and that has been unbelievably successful. We are the largest oil and gas producer in the world.”
Shale oil drillers have spawned a revolution using high-pressure drilling, coupled with a mixture of water and sand, which breaks open — “fractures” — hard-to-reach oil pockets trapped in rock.
The major shale oil fields are in southern and southwest Texas, Montana and North Dakota, and Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and parts of Nebraska. There are also deposits east of the Mississippi in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
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