By Josh Lederman – The Associated Press – November 14, 2013
WASHINGTON — For the first month in nearly two decades, the U.S. in October extracted more oil from the ground than it imported from abroad, marking an important milestone for a nation seeking to wean itself off foreign oil.
A promising sign for a still-slugging economy, the shift could foreshadow future opportunities to boost jobs in the U.S., lower the trade deficit and insulate the economy from foreign crises that can send oil prices rising. But it also speaks to deeper, underlying changes in the way Americans use oil.
And industry experts say the U.S. still imports more oil-based products than it exports.
Not since 1995 has the U.S produced more crude oil than it imported. For several years now, domestic production has been on the rise while net imports have been declining. But data released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical wing of the Energy Department, show the trend lines have finally crossed, with crude oil production topping 7.7 million barrels per day.
Obama administration officials said President Barack Obama’s efforts to boost fuel efficiency for cars have been a driving factor, helping to reduce U.S. demand for gas and, in turn, lessening the need to import foreign oil.
“Taken together, these factors not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but work to reduce overall carbon pollution in our communities,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
But on the production side, energy experts and the oil industry say the higher volumes of oil coming out of the ground come despite Obama’s policies, not because of them. They say Obama has made it harder, not easier, to produce oil on government land.
As the world’s biggest oil consumer by far, the U.S. is still a long way from being energy-independent.
“It’s a very positive sign — enormously positive,” said Philip Verleger, an independent U.S. energy analyst. “But energy policy has not been a help; it’s been a hindrance.”