10 million barrels of oil per day: How do you like us now?

There I was, deep in hostile territory. Ten years ago, the Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, my boss, was speaking to a group of “peak oil” theorists. They believed the capacity to produce oil had reached its high point, a plateau so to speak. Never again would we see rising production numbers, they said, as the Earth’s natural reserves were declining.

I was sitting in the back of the room, listening to my Chairman speak and watching the unfriendly crowd roll their eyes and negatively whisper. I always thought it was odd that these “peak oil” organizations never accounted for any advancement in technology. When I raised this point to some of my table mates, I remember people literally laughing at me, telling me how nothing can counteract the decline of oil.

They questioned my credibility, asking if I was a scientist (which I was not, and never claimed to be), and then lectured me about how it was a dynamic and complicated issue. Their tone was very sanctimonious. However, none of them could directly answer my question.

This group wasn’t an outlier. Many existed at the time. The inevitability of depleting our oil resources was considered “settled science.” Mainstream media constantly reported on the U.S. running out of oil. Talking heads filled the 24-hour news cycle, mocking the concept of “drilling our way out of this problem.”

Well, it looks like we did. Ten million seems like an incredible, almost incomprehensible number, yet that is the number of barrels the U.S. is now producing in crude oil per day. It’s the highest number ever. In Texas, our production has risen from about one million barrels per day to an estimated four million barrels a day.

This milestone is not by luck or happenstance, but was achieved by the intellectual prowess of the oil and gas industry. Given the advancements in technology such as hydraulic fracturing and current reserves in the ground, the conversation has shifted from decline and diminishing returns to permanence and stability.

In addition, energy companies are doing more to protect the environment than at any point in our history. Methane emissions are down, and water is protected and used sparingly. This industry has taken incredible steps to keep the process clean and safe even as they increase output to historic levels.

In the recent past, U.S. energy companies were prohibited from selling oil outside the country. That all changed in 2015 when the federal ban was lifted. We now have the ability to export oil around the world to compete with other oil exporting nations. Domestic oil and gas energy is poised to dominate the oil marketplace for the foreseeable future.

It is amazing what can be accomplished in ten years. The U.S. went from oil scarcity to oil abundance, and the “peak oil” folks from a decade ago, well, they just went to scarcity.

By Chris Hosek