In the past two decades, oil consumption has exploded in countries like China and India, where expanding middle classes have driven large-scale economic growth. China’s demand for oil has nearly tripled over that period. During that time, the United States has remained the world’s biggest consumer of oil, going through tens of millions of barrels a day. A recent shale-drilling boom in the United States has caused the production of oil and gas in the country to skyrocket, making America less dependent on imports and allowing it to reclaim its role as a leader in the global energy industry. Oil production in the United States grew an extraordinary 17 percent last year.
The surge has changed the dynamics of the world’s oil market, which has long taken its cues from OPEC, the cartel of oil producers that includes Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran. In previous eras, attacks in the Strait of Hormuz would have sent the price of oil spiraling down. The oil market’s response to the recent tanker attacks has been muted, in part because of how much oil now comes from the United States. As its reliance on Middle Eastern oil has decreased, the United States has found itself in a stronger position when dealing with countries like Iran.