The prospect of becoming an energy-independent nation has captured the minds of many Americans, including politicians, in the past decade. While energy independence is not likely in the short term, and not probable in the long term, the United States' recent surge in crude oil production has led to a decline in net imports of energy.

Technological innovation drives this growth, as hydraulic fracturing has allowed companies, including expected beneficiaries ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX), to exploit new sources and increase efficiency of existing wells. Such technology is especially useful in shale plays, including the Bakken and Eagle Ford regions, giving rise to smaller niche companies such as Heckmann (NYSE: HEK), Kodiak Oil (NYSE: KOG), and Northern Oil and Gas (NYSE: NOG). Even with the promising trend of increasing oil production, complete energy independence might not become a reality, but as this infographic shows, the trends are positively reversing:

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Source: Infographic from UG Center -- Section Eagle Ford.