The U.S. is the largest consumer of oil in the world, by a fairly wide margin. That makes perfect sense, given that the country also hosts the single largest economy, more than doubling the size of its closest rival.
But all this oil has to come from somewhere. The story on the news is usually about OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Middle East, especially after the decade-long conflict in Iraq. And they contribute a major portion of the U.S.’ oil, along with the country’s northern neighbor, Canada.
As it turns out, however, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that all the country’s imports still only amounted to 45 percent of American oil consumption in 2011, less than at any point since 1995. The remainder was produced at oil wells scattered around the U.S., which pumped out around 5.7 million barrels per day last year and consumed nearly all of it domestically.
Not Just Texas and Alaska
While many Americans might hear about domestic oil production and think of tumbleweeds rolling past oil wells among the hills and plains of West Texas or perhaps the icy northern coasts of Alaska, the oil industry is far more widespread than that.
According to the EIA, Alaskan oil production peaked more than a decade ago in 1998. At 738 million barrels, the state accounted for roughly one-quarter of the entire country’s production. Since then, production has plummeted, falling more than 72 percent to less than 209 million barrels in 2011, only around one-tenth of the country’s production.
Texas has had a bit more luck in the past few years, seeing production rising more than 35 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach almost 538 million barrels, or just above one-quarter of total production. But that still represents a massive drop from earlier years. In 1981, the earliest year the EIA has data for, Texas produced more than 932 million barrels. That means even after five years of gains, Texas oil production has fallen more than 42 percent in the past three decades
Where does American oil comes from?
If Texas and Alaska together are only producing around 35 percent of America’s oil, the rest must be coming from somewhere. In fact, it turns out the country’s oil comes from just about everywhere short of New England and the Pacific Northwest.
In 2009, the EIA reports that the U.S. had more than 363,000 active oil wells across the country. Texas easily tops that list with more than 141,500 oil wells of all sizes. Alaska, relying on a small number of massive wells, operated only 1,294. Instead, the second-place state behind Texas was actually sunny California, with a stunning 49,153 active oil wells. While most people might not associate California with the oil industry, the state produced 196 million barrels of oil in 2011, actually a notable decline from five years before and well below its peak in 1985 of 394 million barrels.
Behind that comes another potentially surprising state, with Kansas boasting 46,013 active oil wells. The plains state was nowhere near as productive as the others, putting out less than 41.7 million barrels of oil in 2011, but it nevertheless has drawn significant oil investment. Some of the other states near the top are just as surprising, from New Mexico at number six to Ohio at number seven. The EIA notes that the rise of shale oil has only furthered this diversity, sparking a boom in North Dakota and increasing investment across the country.
Ultimately, investors interested in buying oil wells can find new developments almost anywhere in the country.