Estimates published Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Department show the U.S. is the world’s largest crude oil producer for the first time since 1973.
American oil production has doubled over the past decade, with much of the output resulting from a boom in shale oil in Texas.
“It’s a historic milestone and a reminder: Never bet against the US oil industry,” said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group, a consulting firm.
The U.S. surpassed Saudi Arabia in February and then kept climbing throughout the summer. By August the U.S. was producing nearly 11 million barrels of oil per day and surpassed Russia.
Energy Department forecasts have the U.S. staying ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia through 2019.
Fracking is credited with changing the game in U.S. oil production. Fracking is the process of injecting high-pressure liquid into subterranean shale rocks to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. The term “fracking” is in reference to how the rocks fracture as a result of the high-pressure liquid injection.
Fracking has given drilling companies the means to extract formerly unaccessible vast amounts of oil and natural gas in the U.S., in particular in the Permian Basin in West Texas.
Fracking is considered controversial for a number of reasons. For one, many think fracking results in small earthquakes or tremors, which could also set off larger earthquakes. Environmentalists also worry chemicals used in the fracking process are carcinogenic and can escape into groundwater or contaminate the soil.
Also, leading to the boom in U.S. oil production was the lifting of a 40-year ban on exporting crude oil. In 2015, Congress lifted the ban which had existed since 1975. The U.S. now exports oil to South America, Europe and China.
CNN reported that Texas is on track to produce more oil than Iraq or Iran, which would make it the number three oil producer in the world if it were its own country.
“It’s all about technological improvements, supported by ample capital to invest, and the ingenuity of American oil drillers,” said Bob McNally, a former energy official under President George W. Bush.