Energy Independence from OPEC -- A Real Possibility?

By Joseph Lawler

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Republicans, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, have released an energy policy blueprint, in which they strike a positive note about the prospects for becoming independent of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil imports.

Of course, energy independence -- consuming only energy produced domestically -- is a goal constantly promoted by candidates seeking the presidency and then ignored by presidents, because it's not feasible anytime soon. The energy committee Republicans, however, make the case that it might be possible for America to get all the oil it needs from within North America:

Skeptics who say this is impossible are needlessly pessimistic and simply basing their conclusions on outdated information. First, the U.S. has seen its reserve portfolio grow substantially in the past decade. The U.S. intelligence community assessed in its longā€range forecasting that the nation “could emerge as a major energy exporter” by 2020.19 This is due in large part to previously subeconomic resources, like shale oil, becoming economic on private and state lands.

Second, the trends are already in our favor. Total domestic energy production is rising – by nearly 10 percent over the past 10 years – even as Americans become more energy efficient, technology improves, and exploration continues. Crude oil production is at its highest peak in 15 years and exploration has doubled over the last decade.


Third, the U.S. stands to benefit from greater energy production in both Canada and Mexico. In 2011, Canada produced roughly 2.9 million barrels of crude oil per day, while Mexico produced 2.6 million. When added to the approximately six million barrels that the U.S. produces each day, total North American production (11.5 million barrels) is far greater than the nation’s net imports (8.5 million barrels in 2011) and more than double the imports from OPEC (4.6 million barrels). There is no scarcity of energy resources in North America.

And here are the charts showing the situation. First, OPEC imports vs. North American production:

 

And against U.S. production, exports, and non-OPEC imports:

Separately, from the Energy Information Administration (pdf), US production has already edged above net imports (including OPEC imports):

And relative to consumption:

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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