U.S. oil output passes imports for first time since 1995

Oil production in the U.S. hit 7.7m barrels a day. Newly-tapped shale-based reserves helped hit this level

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Oil production in the United States surpassed its oil imports for the first time in nearly two decades in October, the government said Wednesday.

Helped mainly by production from newly-tapped shale-based reserves, domestic output hit 7.7 million barrels a day last month, a 24-year high.

Oil imports, long seen as a strategic and economic vulnerability for America, sank well below that figure to a 17-year low, according to the Energy Information Agency.

The last time U.S. output surpassed imports was February 1995, when domestic demand was surging while production continued to slowly decline, the EIA said.

The onset of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has allowed drillers to unlock reserves in hard-to-exploit shale strata and brought on a rapid climb in production of both oil and natural gas.

The shift has taken the U.S. reliance on imported oil to less than 40 percent of domestic consumption, compared to more than 60 percent at the peak of import dependence in 2005.

The EIA forecasts imports will make up only 28 percent of consumption in 2014, the lowest level since 1985.

The White House heralded the shift as a success of its energy and conservation policies.

“This milestone is a result of both increased production and administration policies, like increased fuel economy standards, that cut oil consumption, cut carbon pollution and cut consumer bills,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

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