It may be hard to believe as gas prices break new records, but the U.S. is actually in the midst of an energy boom. In 2011 domestic oil production reached its highest level since 2003, and one state--shale-oil-shilling North Dakota--pumped more crude than entire OPEC countries like Ecuador. For the first time in more than 60 years, we're selling more petroleum products than we buy. (See timeline at right.)
That's great news for the domestic oil and gas industry--and the roughnecks and engineers it employs--but the rest of us won't reap many rewards. President Obama recently vowed to "reduce our nation's vulnerability to the ups and downs of the global oil market," but it won't be easy: the U.S. spent a whopping $331.6 billion importing crude last year. And with increased demand from China pushing up the price of oil, that bill will only get bigger--which means high gas prices could continue to be a drag on the economy. Oil is a global commodity, and as long as the U.S. needs crude, we'll never be truly energy independent.