Surprise, Surprise: US Crude Oil Production Is Surging

We may be toiling in the post-truth age, but here at we stubbornly remain stuck in old-school habits and favor hard data over the rising preference in some circles for creatively reframing facts.

Case in point: claims about US energy production, which became a hot-button issue at Wednesday’s Republican primary debate. If you accepted the candidates’ assertions it was easy to assume that America’s energy output has slumped sharply during the Biden administration. Former Vice President Mike Pence promoted this idea by arguing:

“One of the signature accomplishments of our administration was in just a few short years we achieved energy independence,” Pence said. “But on day one, Joe Biden declared a war on energy.” He added that “We’re going to open up federal lands, we’re going to unleash American energy, we’re going to have an all-of-the-above-energy strategy.”

The not-so-subtle implication: a radical U-turn is needed to reverse the dramatic decline in US energy production. The reality, however, is quite different when adopt the quaint idea of looking at the actual numbers, based on data from the US Energy Information Administration. Weekly production of crude oil through Sep. 22, 2023 rose to 12.9 million barrels a day. For those of you keeping score at home, that translates to an 18% increase since Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, which marks a sharp rebound from the falloff during the pandemic.  

The latest output level is still below the record peak of 13.1 million barrels for the week through Feb. 2020, but only slightly. If the recent trend persists, a new record high is likely before the year ends.

One can argue that the current recovery in output isn’t sufficient and that the administration could be even more aggressive in favoring what some might term a “drill, baby, drill” policy. But to suggest that America has abandoned its capacity to be energy independent via domestic production requires an extreme bout of intellectual acrobatics that ignores the numbers in search of an alternative narrative.

In fact, there’s a strong argument to make that the Biden administration, for all its talk of pursuing a green energy policy, is moving too slow to curtail, much less reverse, US fossil fuel output. The numbers certainly provide support for that argument. But in the current realm of GOP politics there’s no appetite to argue that view, to put it mildly.

In the post-game analysis/debate at Wednesday’s GOP talk fest, for example, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted the rise in US energy to Fox News host and Republican stalwart Sean Hannity, who claimed “We were energy independent, and now we’re not.” Newsom correctly responded that “we’re more energy independent today — that’s a fact, look it up.” We did, and Newsom’s right, as the chart above indicates.

But Hannity persisted and falsely said that “Joe Biden has unilaterally disarmed [US energy production].” The facts suggest otherwise. Fortunately, facts are stubborn things, at least for those interested in understanding reality.

9 thoughts on “Surprise, Surprise: US Crude Oil Production Is Surging

  1. Pacioli

    Nice try. What they are saying is not that there’s a huge problem with today’s PRODUCTION levels. They are saying (correctly) that the current administration is doing everything in its power to discourage INVESTMENT in future production.
    You’re looking at coincident and lagging stats when you should be looking at leading indicators.

  2. James Picerno Post author

    Pacioli, if you only listen to Republicans you would think that the production has dropped like a rock. In fact, the opposite is true, and yet Republicans conveniently omit this fact. Yes, there’s a good debate about whether Biden’s policies will allow production to rise further and so a discussion about the future is fair game. But ignoring the sharp rebound in production of late strikes me as a severe case of letting politics cloud the analysis. That’s fine if you want to traffic in political marketing — and, yes, both sides do it. But if you’re looking for historical trends, the numbers speak loud and clear.

  3. Brendon Clakre

    The more imporwnt point is our energy policy js garbage. The Biden administration has taken steps to make sure that petroleum products are as expensive as possible. This has a massive impact on inflation and the cost of most goods.

    When Biden’s energy sectrarry was asked what we could do to increase domestic production she loudly laughed and said nothing. It’s up to OPEC as oil is a global commodity. This is of course false. There are many things we could do that the current administration refuses to look at. Instead he pathetically fist bumps MBS who then gets his photo op and cuts production.

  4. Daniel M Polvere

    As each of the above commenters said, in complementary ways, you IGNORED that the administration is doing everything it can to thwart US energy production.
    A piece like this one will discourage me from ever reading ANYthing you write again.

  5. Alan Tonelson

    The US is back just below peak pre-covid oil production peaks but the economy is nearly 8% larger in real terms. And the above commenters who stress Biden actions that will hamper future production are totally spot on.

  6. James Picerno Post author

    Yes, the future is uncertain and there’s a case to made that Biden’s policy will create headwinds for production. But the fact remains that production in the recent past has surged, and that some observers prefer to ignore/dismiss this simple fact.

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