Oil prices stay level despite geopolitical turmoil

America is in the middle of a surprisingly productive oil boom. The county's oil production is expected to grow to 9.2 million barrels a day next year and 9.6 million by 2016, and some experts think the U.S. could soon become the world's largest oil producer.

That surge has ushered in an era of relative stability for the global oil market, which traditionally been vulnerable to geopolitical turmoil.

When you add Canada to the mix, the picture gets even more stable. Crude oil output in Canada is expected to hit 3.9 million barrels a day next year. The country experts some 2.7 million barrels a day, almost all of which go to the U.S.

The burst in production from North America is a big reason why oil prices have stayed steady lately even as other oil-producing regions have been in chaos, Businessweek reports. In Libya, for example, militias have taken control of the country's largest ports and caused oil production to plummet by 80 percent. And Russia, the world's largest oil producer, may face sanctions over actions related to its actions in Ukraine.

Normally, those two crises would have sent the oil market into a panic. Yet the price of crude oil has stayed steady at around $100 a barrel since 2012.

Without the added supply from the U.S., oil prices could have hit $150 a barrel right now, oil analyst Lysle Brinker told Businessweek. Overall imports of oil in the U.S. is at their lowest levels since September 2008 on the Gulf Coast, wrote a technical analyst for Forex.com on Friday.

There's another benefit from increased U.S. production. Because America is producing so much oil, it's taking less from the rest of the world. Now, only 28 percent of the country's petroleum is imported, reports Businessweek, down from 60 percent in 2005. All that extra oil left in the world is going largely to Asia, which is developing a voracious appetite for the stuff.

Another factor coming into play is the easing in demand for gasoline in the U.S. even as the economy picks up. Gasoline stocks rose 1.6 million barrels heading into the summer driving season, according to a recent Department of Energy report. Analysts were only expecting a gain of 100,000.

There seems to be a general consensus that the world is heading for an oil glut in the near future that could drop oil prices, perhaps to as low as $75 a barrel. We could see a shortage after that, though some experts think the U.S. shale boom could continue for several decades.

The U.S. may see decreased demand for gasoline in the future as cars become more fuel-efficient and as drivers switch to electric vehicles. But OPEC thinks demand for oil will increase by 12 percent between 2015 and 2025, Forbes reports.
So don't expect the industry to be in a permanent state of calm. Things will likely get hairy again in the future -- after all, some of the most chaotic regions in the world produce oil, and that's not going to change. There are also environmental concerns around hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the process behind the U.S. oil boom. Critics say extracting shale gas from the ground using current methods can contaminate ground water, among other problems.
  • Kim Peterson

    Kim Peterson is a financial journalist covering business and the economy. She has written for several online and print publications, including MSN Money and The Seattle Times.