Just when it seems that all the news is bad, a ray a light peeks through the clouds.  Our dependence on foreign oil, a bugaboo for Presidents dating back to Nixon, has finally begun to recede.  And the biggest reason can be found next door inNorth Dakota.


As with the natural gas revolution of recent years, the latest oil boom is powered by new drilling techniques, most notably the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Informational Administration (EIA) reports that the share of imported oil fell below 50 percent in 2010, the first time imports represented less than half the total since 1999.  (Canada is our number one foreign supplier, withSaudi Arabia andMexico alternating in second and third place.)


Our foreign oil dependence peaked in 2005 above 60 percent.  The decline in imports can be attributed to a decline in consumption, related to the economic recession, and an increase in production, with North Dakotabeing the fastest growing state.  The EIA reports that North Dakota ranks fourth, behind only Texas, Alaska, and California in oil production.  Production levels in North Dakota are double their 2008 levels.  The Wall Street Journal reports that, if current trends hold,North Dakota will move into the number two spot, afterTexas, by the end of the decade.


It may surprise some to learn that the U.S.is the world’s third largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabiaand Russia.  It will surprise even more to hear that there are published reports that investment bank Goldman Sachs believes the U.S. has the potential to become the number one oil-producing country in the world, as early as 2017.


This story, from National Public Radio, describes the oil boom in North Dakota and gives one a feel for the jobs and economic development produced by domestic oil production.  The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, estimates that by shifting federal policy on oil drilling we could create an additional 1 million jobs inAmerica.


Other advanced nations likeCanada(world no. 6),Norway(world no. 13), and theU.K.(world no. 19) don’t seem squeamish about developing their natural resources.  Neither should we.