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Drilling Down Into President Trump's Remarks On Oil And Gas Production

A drilling rig on BLM lands in Nevada.
A drilling rig on BLM lands in Nevada.

President Donald Trump somewhat misrepresented his administration’s role in the expansion of domestic oil and gas production during his State of the Union address Tuesday. 

"Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world, by far,” he said. “With the tremendous progress we have made over the past three years, America is now energy independent, and energy jobs, like so many other elements of our country, are at a record high.”

Trump is partially correct — America edged out Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top oil producer in the summer of 2018, and both oil and natural gas production have ticked up during his tenure. 

“So it’s certainly the case that under the Trump administration there’s been an expansion of oil and gas production,” Robert Godby, Director for Energy Economics & Public Policies Center at the University of Wyoming, said. “But that oil and gas expansion actually began as early as about 2008, during the Obama administration.”

Back then, U.S. firms began using new technologies, namely hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, to extract more oil and natural gas from underneath American public and private lands. It was during President Obama’s first term that America became the world’s top natural gas producer. 

Fossil fuel production did wane slightly near the end of the Obama administration, but Godby says that was due more to market prices than politics. 

Trump also asserted in his speech that the number of energy jobs have hit a record high. While oil and gas extraction employment has been growing since 2018, the sector is still smaller than it was five years ago and is roughly half the size as it was during the Reagan administration, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. Follow Nate Hegyi on Twitter @natehegyi.

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