Not The Legacy He Imagined? U.S. Oil Production Up 80 Percent Under Obama

From 4.9 million barrels per day when Obama sworn in to 8.8 million now

When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the U.S. was producing 4.9 million barrels of oil per day.

A month before Obama leaves office, domestic oil production stands at 8.8 million barrels per day, an increase of 80 percent.

The increase is due primarily to industry innovators who combined two older technologies — hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. This has benefited consumers in the form of both lower pump prices and smaller heating bills.

Now with President-elect Donald Trump taking office, energy analysts are optimistic that the U.S. will produce even more.

Trump’s advisers have said that the incoming president will open up federal lands for energy production. According to the Institute for Energy Research, there are about 700 million acres of federal land, of which just 34.6 million were leased for oil and natural gas production in 2014, or less than 5 percent of all holdings. The U.S. government also controls 1.7 billion offshore acres. Less than two percent of that, or 32.7 million acres, was leased for oil and natural gas production.

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“One of the points that President-elect Trump consistently brought up on the campaign trail was the need to unleash our domestic energy resources,” said Chris Ward, spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research. “One of the ways they can do that is by opening up more federal lands for energy production and speeding up the permitting process. An important thing to keep mind is that the hydraulic fracturing revolution happened on state and private lands, while production on federal lands lagged far behind. In addition, much of the oil resources on federal lands are conventional as opposed to shale. Those resources are typically less expensive to produce.”

Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said if federal lands are made more available, the main constraint on U.S. production will be worldwide demand. That demand, along with ample supply, determines the price for both domestic and foreign producers.

“The U.S. becomes even more of an international leader in being an energy producer,” Hayes said about the impact of opening more federal land to drilling.

Domestic oil production peaked in the first week of June 2015 at 9.6 million barrels per day and then slowly declined over the following 18 months.

Erica Bowman, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, said the decline wasn’t based on any government policy but an excess of supply. “In the global oil market, the prices have collapsed,” Bowman said. “There’s a lot of supply.”

As President Obama's second term comes to an end, the president is making more attempts to limit oil production in the U.S. He banned offshore drilling on federal land within the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, the Washington Post recently reported.

Editor's note: This article was updated with President Obama's recent ban of offshore drilling.