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Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll January 21, 2015

Obama: America is No. 1 producer of oil, gas

The United States is on top of the world in terms of energy production, President Barack Obama said during his sixth State of the Union.

"We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet," he said during his Jan. 20 address. "And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008."

We decided to check out the data and see if in fact the United States is the world’s top oil and gas producer. As it turns out, the United States passed Saudi Arabia about two years ago in terms of oil production. And we’ve been the top producer of natural gas for more than two decades.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which tracks global energy production and consumption statistics, generally uses total oil supply production as its most relevant statistic for assessing the world oil market. This statistic includes crude oil, natural gas liquids, condensates, other liquids, such as biofuels like ethanol, and refinery gain.  

By this measure, in the third quarter of 2014 -- which includes the most recent available data -- the United States produced 14.2 million barrels per day. The next-highest producer, Saudi Arabia, produced 11.7 million per day; and Russia produced 10.5 million per day. Together, that’s about 40 percent of total global production.

If we whittle down that number further just to look at crude oil -- what typically comes to mind when we think of "oil production" -- with no other liquids, the United States is third behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. But when natural gas liquids are added into the mix, the United States takes the No. 1 spot again with 12.9 million barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids.

A note: Natural gas liquids -- included in the oil production count -- are different from natural gas. Natural gas liquids are derivatives of petroleum (like kerosene) that are found in the same rocks as a natural gas deposit. Natural gas is methane that comes from the ground as a gas. It’s the gas that comes out of a gas stove and heats buildings.

The United States produces significantly more natural gas than Saudi Arabia and a bit more than Russia. According to the Energy Information Administration, United States energy production is about evenly split between petroleum and natural gas. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, primarily produces petroleum.

Here is a chart showing the breakdown:

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The United States and Russia are the top producers of natural gas -- with the United States producing 29.5 trillion cubic feet in 2012, and Russia producing 23 trillion.

Oil production growth has contributed to the United States’ ability to produce more oil than it imports for the first time in about 20 years. The Energy Information Administration expects American production to continue to grow in 2015, despite recent lower crude oil prices.

The majority of U.S. oil production growth is concentrated in four regions: Bakken, N.D.; Eagle Ford, Texas; the Niobrara region in the Upper Midwest states; and the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico.

North Dakota and Texas together comprise almost 50 percent of all crude oil production in the United States -- compared to 2010, when the two states combined produced just 26 percent of all U.S. crude oil production.

In 2013, energy markets consultant group PIRA Energy published a report that said shale production is one of the driving forces behind the country’s production growth. Shale oil and gas are commonly associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the process of using water pressure to fracture a rock to release natural gas and oil. The United States is the world leader in shale gas production.

There is at least one piece of context to keep in mind when looking at the United States’ oil production compared with Saudi Arabia, noted Leonardo Maugeri, an associate at Harvard University’s Geopolitics of Energy project. Saudi Arabia has a higher capacity than the United States to produce oil, but it chooses not to use it all -- so as not to inundate the global oil market.

"In other words, if Saudi Arabia produced at full capacity -- as the U.S. does -- its production would be higher than the U.S.," Maugeri said.

Our ruling

Obama said "America is No. 1 one in oil and gas "

The latest global oil and natural gas production statistics back up Obama’s claim. The United States has been the world’s largest oil producer since 2012, and the largest natural gas producer for years. We rate his statement True.

Our Sources

NBC, Meet the Press, Jan. 4, 2014

U.S. Energy Information Administration, global oil production database, accessed Jan. 4, 2014

U.S. Energy Information Administration, "North America leads the world in production of shale gas," Oct. 23, 2013

U.S. Energy Information Administration, "U.S. expected to be largest producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2013," Oct. 4, 2013

U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Despite lower crude oil prices, U.S. crude oil production expected to grow in 2015," Jan. 2, 2015

Bloomberg News, "U.S. Seen as Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia," July 4, 2014

Reuters, "U.S. surges past Saudis to become world's top oil supplier - PIRA," Oct. 15, 2013

Email interview, Klobuchar spokesman Rob Friedlander, Jan. 4, 2015

Email interview, Leonardo Maugeri, associate at Harvard’s Geopolitics of Energy project, Jan. 4, 2015

Email interview, Energy Information Administration international expert Erik Kreil, Jan. 5, 2015

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Obama: America is No. 1 producer of oil, gas

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