The United States has long been seen as a nation in its twilight as an oil producer, facing a relentless decline that began when President Richard Nixon was in the White House. He and every president since pledged to halt the U.S. slide into greater dependence on foreign oil, but the trend seemed irreversible—until now. Forty-one years later, U.S. oil production is on the rise.
U.S. oil fields yielded an estimated 5.68 million barrels per day in 2011—their highest output since 2003, thanks largely to a surge of new production from shale oil that lies beneath the Great Plains. The rush so far is centered in North Dakota, where oil production has quadrupled since 2005, but drilling is set to spread across the prairie and beyond.