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North America Losing Its Oil Edge

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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For good or bad, from 1980-2010, North America lost some of its oil production edge.

Thirty (two) years ago, this region of the world represented 20% of the world’s crude oil production. But, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North America has been slowly losing its market share. In 2010, the region represented just 15% of the world’s crude oil production, with a significant portion of its share shifting to Asia, Africa, and the Former Soviet Union.

In fact, North America was the only region in the world that had a net production decrease over these three decades.

In total, North America’s crude oil production decreased by about 1 million barrels per day in this timeframe, while global crude oil and lease condensate production increased by 24%. But, as the result of increased production in North Dakota and Texas, the United States has seen overall gains in crude oil production in recent years. Between 2008-2010 these two states realized an 11% increase in production levels (barrels/day). But, these recent gains have not (according to these numbers) been enough to negate the overall losses since 1980.

H/T to Ed Crooks at the Financial Times for his comments on this post.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. JamesDavis 7:39 am 01/30/2012

    If we gave up ICE cars and plastic bottles, we wouldn’t have to increase oil production. Convert to electric cars and start blowing glass bottles again and that would save millions of barrels of oil a day.

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  2. 2. BillR 8:41 am 01/30/2012

    I do think we should go back to glass and stop producing so much plastic. No environmental impact if it is processed correctly. Just melt it and make new bottles. Or grind it up to the size of coarse sand and use it for land fill.

    What I do not understand is how there are so many people defending big oil. They feed off of fear to raise their prices. Every little rumor of a problem in an oil producing country or with a pipeline or tanker and the gas prices shoot up another ten percent. Makes you wonder who is spreading the rumors.

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  3. 3. geojellyroll 12:11 pm 01/30/2012

    Article is quite confusing. Firstly, ‘North America’ is not a geologic entity put geographic…an arbitrary division. What are parts of the ‘Middle East’ as opposed to ‘Africa’ ‘Asia’ includes or not ‘former Soviet Union’? Why any arbitray division?

    Also percents and volumes are confused. N. Dakota, etc, gains in ‘USA’ in recent years as opposed to what? ‘North America’ focus morphs into the USA…non sequitors. There has been larger gains in Canadian sources.

    A very poor piece on non-journalism not worthy of so-called ‘Scientific’ American

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  4. 4. sault 2:53 pm 01/30/2012

    Agree geojellyroll, it was very confusing article. Although U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, Canadian and until recently, Mexican production has increased to pick up a lot of the slack. The scary trend is that oil production has outpaced oil discovery ever since the 1980s. Since reserves mostly tend to be overstated instead of understated, see OPEC and the %80 downward revision of U.S. shale gas reserves, the fact that we are rapidly depleting our known reserves and we aren’t discovering any more supergiant oil fields to prop up declining production is very troubling. We should be building up high-speed passenger and freight rail, commuter rail, electric car charging stations and smart growth to ease the impact of increasing oil price uncertainty in the future.

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