The United States ended 2018 as the world’s top crude oil producer, a status it hasn’t enjoyed since 1973. America was also a weekly net petroleum exporter earlier this month for the first time since the Truman administration some 75 years ago. We also lead all major nations in carbon dioxide reductions this century.

If someone had told you back in 2008 that those three things were going to happen 10 years down the road, it probably would have sounded as believable as saying Donald Trump would be elected president.

But thanks to the marriage of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, all three have become a reality. In just a decade’s time, the United States’ fortunes have transitioned from that of energy scarcity to energy abundance — and it’s something worth celebrating.

The United States will finish 2018 averaging 10.9 million barrels of crude oil production per day. Not only does that figure obliterate the previous record of 9.6 million barrels per day set in 1970, it is more than twice as much as the United States pumped in 2008.

By more than doubling production, our net petroleum imports have decreased by seven million barrels per day since 2008. Just 13 years removed from being the world’s top energy importer, America is now on a trajectory to completely wipe out an energy trade deficit that peaked at $321 billion in 2011.

The energy boom has also allowed our energy security risk to decline from a record high to the fourth lowest level ever in just six years. Much to the chagrin of the hostile nations we once relied heavily on to meet our energy needs., what was once a glaring national weakness is now a strength, and our geopolitical position is as strong as its been in decades as a result.

But perhaps most incredibly, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent from 2005 levels, thanks largely to record natural gas consumption made possible by shale. In fact, despite all the green rhetoric directed our way from across the Atlantic, we have actually outpaced the European Union in carbon dioxide reductions since 2005.

Remarkably, the best may be yet to come.

With growing demand abroad and all-time-high proved reserves at home, the United States is expected to become a net energy exporter by 2022 for the first time since 1953.

Illinois’ contribution to the U.S. energy boom has no doubt been muted by legislative delays and a price downturn that has curtailed shale development in a state in dire need of the economic boost it would provide. But even as Illinois’ economy continues to struggle, it is important to understand that the state’s financial situation would be worse if not for the steady contributions of Illinois’ remarkably resilient conventional oil industry.

Through good times and bad over the past decade, Illinois’ oil industry has been responsible for more than 4,000 direct jobs and royalty income for another 30,000 people. All told, the industry generates $770 million in direct personal or business income and $330 million in tax revenue annually, millions of which go to support our woefully underfunded public schools.

Entirely comprised of small, independent producers, Illinois’ upstream petroleum industry is anything but “Big Oil” — but it does have a big impact. Likewise, its future potential is formidable as well.

Though more than four billion barrels of oil have been produced from Illinois’ oil fields, it is believed that the same amount of recoverable oil remains. Many millions will continue to be produced by the conventional means successfully employed for decades, but shale development could help the state realize its full potential moving forward.

So as the story of America’s newfound energy superpower status continues to be written, it is important to remember that the Land of Lincoln plays a small part in the tale — and could assume a far more prominent role in future chapters.

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Seth Whitehead is Executive Director of the Illinois Petroleum Resources Board.


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