The number of active oil drilling rigs in the United States rose by 14 this week, climbing for the ninth consecutive week as oil demand soars.

That number brings the total U.S. rig count up to 728 in total, according to data from Baker Hughes, an increase of 273, or about 60%, compared to the same point in 2021 and the most since the pandemic struck in March 2020 and wiped out demand for oil.

The new count comes as President Joe Biden has partially reversed course from his campaign pledges to crack down on fossil fuels. In recent months, Biden has urged oil and gas companies to ramp up domestic production, seeking to combat soaring prices and a spike in demand amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.


Oil prices climbed Friday, with futures for global benchmark Brent crude rising slightly to $112.84. Futures for U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate, meanwhile, settled at $113.23 by late Friday afternoon.

Gas prices in the U.S. continue to climb to record highs amid the skyrocketing demand, with the national average rising Friday to $4.59 per gallon, according to AAA — an increase of 48 cents from just one month ago and up from $3.04 from a year ago.

Demand for natural gas has also ballooned across the globe in recent months, especially in European countries that have suffered sky-high prices, causing the domestic natural gas industry to anticipate a big year for profits.

Aggregate production volumes for November also neared pre-pandemic levels, and production reached its highest level on record in December 2021.

Of particular interest to the industry is the fate of oil and gas leasing on federal lands, which Biden promised as a candidate to end. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday that the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management intends to publish its proposed five-year offshore lease program by June 30, when the program is slated to expire.


Haaland stressed to lawmakers that those in charge of developing the proposed program “are not prejudging an outcome,” but the administration is under immense pressure from green groups to determine that the environmental impacts associated with new leasing are too grave and to publish a program without any lease sales.

Haaland's announcement follows weeks of mounting concern and calls to submit the five-year plan from Republicans and from some Democrats. But notably, Haaland declined to give details on prospective sales during her testimony yesterday or say whether the program will lay any out at all.