The United States is now the world’s number one producer of oil. For many readers, it’s a rather unheard of development. For others who have seen a few more decades on the planet, you know that the U.S. had not always been at the mercy of other nations in our reliance on oil imports. For the last five decades, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia has traded places as the top oil producers. Of course, prior to 1991, Russia’s oil production was combined with the Soviet Union’s numbers (which was made up of 15 counties), skewing Russia’s dominance in oil production. Additionally, the combined OPEC output (made up of 15 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Africa) skewed the perceived dominance of middle eastern nation’s oil production.
But as individual country players, the United States’ long held dominance in oil production through the early and mid-20th century fell to the Saudi’s by the mid-1970’s. At the turn of the 21st century, U.S. production was falling off the chart while Russian production grew, eventually surpassing the Saudis in 2006. The following chart shows production numbers by decade for the top 12 oil producing countries since 1973 (a watershed year for U.S. oil with the OPEC oil embargo) revealing how those nations have shifted positions as the leading global producers.
What’s notable is how the distant 4th through 12th slots have tightened and expanded over the past 50 years as Venezuela’s political strife threatens to knock it off the list entirely, and Canada’s oil sands revolution has nearly doubled its output since 1973. Also of note is that despite international pressures on Iran, its production impact continues to grow.
With the shale oil revolution, the United States reclaimed its top spot just last year (2018) and is showing signs of extending its lead well into the next decade. The upward production curve is impressive when laid against all other nations.