HAMMOND | The U.S. saw historic growth in oil and natural gas production last year, and consumers are reaping the benefits, according to a report issued by BP.
"Domestic production in the U.S. and consumption are back at levels we haven't seen in (more than) 30 years," said Mark Finley, general manager of global energy markets and U.S. economics for BP. "... This market is basically overflowing with supply."
Finley presented the findings of the "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015" at a breakfast meeting Friday hosted by the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and BP at Dynasty Banquets in Hammond.
The U.S. is the world's top oil producer for the first time since 1975, Finley said, and for the third year in a row, marked the largest increase in oil production in history.
At the same time, net imports fell by more than half in 2014, and from 30 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. energy mix over the last seven years.
"It will have implications around the world for U.S. security and our economy," Finley said.
Oil refining is on the rise as well, with U.S. refineries increasing production by the largest percentage since 1985.
"The U.S. is where all the supply growth is," he said."There's so much supply out there, the only place to put this stuff is to refine it."
Consumers felt the benefits at the pumps.
"U.S. production has been growing very rapidly, and that was a leading factor in declining oil prices," Finley said. "This is a supply-driven story ... U.S. crude levels last year reached levels we haven't seen since 1930."
Tom Keilman, spokesman for BP Whiting Refinery, said the same holds true at the local level.
"The refinery is actually operating very, very, well in the summer months, and I believe it's reflected in the price we're paying at the pumps," Keilman said.
Global developments pose problems, challenge solutions
Finley said there are "profound developments" in shale in the U.S. and globally that also contributed to U.S. energy growth in 2014.
Shale has seen a 30 percent growth year over year for the last seven years.
"That's the kind of growth you see in the IT sector," Finley said.
A growing focus on climate change and environmental issues also played a role in the world's economy and energy issues.
Finley believes there are "many legitimate government objectives" surrounding global warming and climate change, but believes they harm energy-starved countries.
"There are 1 billion people that lack basic access to energy and electricity," Finley said. "We need to be careful in the U.S. not to be too judgmental about the use of coal when we consider the needs of other countries around the world."
Renewable energy grew significantly last year and represented 30 percent of all energy growth in 2014. Finley said while the growth is substantial, renewables still only represent 3 percent of all of the world's energy.
At the same time, carbon dioxide emissions were low, with just .5 percent growth globally. Finley credits the below-average global economy and increased energy efficiency for the small increase.
Finley said 2014 may be a defining year moving forward.
"In 10 years, we may look back at 2014 and say, 'That was a watershed moment. Things were changing,' " Finley said.