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What Energy Problem? U.S. Oil Exports Are on the Rise

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Just as the average price for gas is set to hit $4 a gallon this week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports February was the third month out of four that the U.S. -- the world's most energy-hungry nation -- actually exported more oil that it imported.

Despite the notion that the U.S. is currently hugely reliant on foreign oil, the country sold 34,000 more barrels of petroleum products a day than it imported in November 2010. And, in both December and February, the U.S. sold 54,000 more barrels a day. Net imports have not been negative for nearly two decades.

Part of this has to do with weak U.S. demand in recent years due to the recession. The other part rests on the growing demand in our own backyard for not only crude oil, but refined oil as well.

Mexico, Latin America and even OPEC member Ecuador are some of the U.S.'s top customers for fuel products, namely refined oil. Rising demand in these countries far outpaces their capacity to refine crude oil into petroleum products like gasoline or diesel fuel.

But, as Dan points out in the accompanying clip, this is not the only news item that hints at this country's ability to export energy to the rest of the world.

Yesterday, Arch Coal announced a $3.4 billion all-cash deal to buy its competitor International Coal Group. The transaction would make the newly formed company the second-largest U.S. supplier of metallurgical coal, which is the coal used to make steel.

And because of growing demand in places like India and China, where coal is used for electricity, the U.S. has started to export more at higher prices than in previous years.

Then there's natural gas. U.S. reserves of natural gas have also grown considerably in the last decade to record levels. A new report by the Potential Gas Committee suggests that in the last two years, potential U.S. natural gas supplies have increased by 3 percent. Two years ago, however, the group reported that supplies jumped 36 percent.

The U.S. does not currently export liquefied natural gas, but that time may soon be on the horizon.

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