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U.S. is now the world's top oil producer, Energy Department says

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The United States is producing 11 million barrels of crude oil per month, becoming the world's top crude producer for the first time in more than 40 years, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday.

The EIA said U.S. production of crude oil surpassed Saudi Arabia in February and then exceeded Russia in June and August. It had been about 20 years since the United States had higher crude production than either of those two countries. And the last time the United States had the top spot in the world was in 1973.

"U.S. crude oil production, particularly from light sweet crude oil grades, has rapidly increased since 2011," the EIA said in a news release. "Much of the recent growth has occurred in areas such as the Permian region in western Texas and eastern New Mexico, the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico, and the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana."

The EIA expects the United States to continue being the top crude producer through 2019.

U.S. oil producers scaled back production in mid-2014 due to decreased costs. But price increases in 2016 spurred production, while Russia and Saudi Arabia's production numbers have remained steady, the EIA said.

Oil market observers say fracking is a major reason why oil producers have increased output. Despite environmental risks associated with the practice, fracking allows oil producers a more cost-effective way to drill in the ground for oil and natural gas.

"That changed the game for the U.S. It meant we could be resilient and competitive," Ben Cook, portfolio manager at BP Capital Fund Advisors, an energy investment management firm, told CNN.

And much of the U.S.'s crude production comes via Texas, which is on track to produce more oil than Iraq and Iran in 2019.
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