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While China has vast shale deposits, too, and is eager to tap those to satisfy some of its growing demand for oil and gas, analysts say, the Asian nation is years away from being able to exploit such unconventional oil sources as it lags the U.S. in technical expertise.

Gary Thayer, an analyst with Wells Fargo & Co., said the drop in oil imports and increased competitiveness of U.S. industry bode well for the U.S. economy.

“The last time the United States saw a similar surge in crude oil production was in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Alaskan crude oil production was on the upswing,” he said. “It helped the U.S. trade deficit to narrow and the value of the U.S. dollar increased in the early 1980s after a decade of weakness,” all of which led to a stronger economy and lower inflation, he said.

“Many of the same conditions exist again today,” he said.