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Power Play: U.S. oil production provides foreign policy flexibility

The worldwide embargo of Iranian oil would not have been possible without the increased production by American oil companies.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: July 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm •  Published: July 13, 2012

Full oil tankers are floating aimlessly in the Persian Gulf largely because of the efforts of American oil and natural gas producers.

Energy industry leaders and politicians increasingly have been talking about energy independence in recent months — and years.

While the country is still far from free of its dependence on foreign oil, the efforts of the North American producers already are making a difference.

The country's oil imports peaked in 2005 at more than 10.1 million barrels per day. A nearly 50-year trend of steadily increasing imports was then suddenly and dramatically reversed as improved drilling techniques have allowed domestic producers to increase their oil output while the recession and conservation efforts have driven down demand.

As a result, the country's oil imports declined to 8.9 million barrels per day last year, down by more than 1.1 million barrels per day from the 2005 peak.

Production also has steadily increased over the past five years in Canada, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The combined global output increase has allowed the United States and European Union to enforce strict sanctions on Iran — the world's No. 5 oil producer — because of its nuclear efforts.

Beginning June 28, a new set of U.S. sanctions bars foreign banks that buy oil from Iran from doing business with the U.S. banking system.

European Union restrictions that began July 1 make it illegal for EU countries to import Iranian oil and refined products. The EU represented about 20 percent of Iran's exports last year. The EU plan also prevents European insurance companies from providing coverage for tankers carrying Iranian oil.

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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