"As the U.S. becomes less dependent on imported oil, that means U.S. oil makes it way to the coasts," Bedard said. "So the East Coast, which has traditionally sourced from foreign crude, can now get cheaper U.S. barrels."
Though the U.S. is well on its way to "independence," hurdles remain in the form of policy and infrastructure, and the cost of getting it out of the ground. Such global changes, improvements in cost and production don't happen overnight; we still have roughly 20 years before that magical import inversion.
The global cost of oil still drives production. And while the U.S. can produce more and consume less in the years ahead, global demand for oil is soaring in countries like China and India, where new-found affluence is creating more factories and putting more cars on the road.
With barrel prices staying as stable as they are near the $100 a barrel market -- Bedard forecasts about $85 a barrel next year -- companies are investing in horizontal drilling programs where the price of drilling ranges from $4 million to $8 million per well.
"Producers need a trigger to make that investment, that's why you're seeing companies invest in oil and liquids production" so much in Colorado, said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, who represents the oil and gas industry. "The product is going to follow the price."
Infrastructure is another issue, locally and nationally that needs to be tackled with the extra production. Getting product to market has remained an obstacle for areas like North Dakota and Colorado, where development has been booming in just the last few years. The planned Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada would pump an estimated 500,000 barrels daily into the North American mix, trimming gas prices an estimated 3 cents a gallon. A decision on that pipeline is expected next month from President Obama.
Infrastructure in Oklahoma and Texas, for example, has been in place for several years. Connecting the traditional routes, when balancing environmental concerns, has become tricky, as has been seen with the push-back on the XL Pipeline.
With the added production, companies have scrambled for extra transportation by rail and truck.
"If you have a barrel of oil in the Niobrara, it might cost you $2 to $3 a gallon to move it by pipeline. Rail might cost you $6 to $9 per barrel and trucking might be $10-$12," Bedard said. "Ideally, you want to pay the least amount for shipping."
Production in Colorado is surpassing traditional limits every day, and Suncor still only can refine about half of what Colorado produces, pushing that excess onto the national market, where prices compete on the global scale.
"One thing I'm absolutely certain of in a market like we have in the United States, if we can get more, cheaper oil into the market, there will be downward pressure on the price at the pump," said Michael Whatley, vice president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, who is advocating for the XL Keystone Pipeline approval.
The increase in production in North Dakota and Colorado has sent companies scrambling to get it to market.
"Producers have worked very quickly to find markets for that product," Dempsey said. "We're not stranded. The marketplace has worked. Whatever they can't market locally, they're getting into (Oklahoma) and eventually out to the Gulf Coast."
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