The New Age Of America's Energy Abundance

 |  Includes: UHN
by: Mark J. Perry

Based on data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis for international trade through December, the U.S. shipped more fuel oils (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and jet fuel) in 2012 than any other single export for the second year in a row (see table below). In total, the U.S. exported more than $117 billion of fuel and petroleum products, which is an increase of nearly 9% over last year's exports. It's also the second year in a row that the U.S. was a net exporter of those fuels and petroleum products. As the AP reported at the end of 2011, "The last time the U.S. was a net exporter of fuels was 1949, when Harry Truman was president."

Rank Top 10 US Exports, 2012 Billions
1 Fuel oil $60.2
2 Petroleum products $57.0
3 Pharmaceutical preparations $47.9
4 Industrial machines, other $46.1
5 Civilian aircraft $45.3
6 Semiconductors $42.1
7 Telecommunications equipment $38.3
8 Electric apparatus $38.2
9 Nonmonetary gold $36.3
10 Chemicals-organic $35.6
Click to enlarge

The AP also reported last year that fuel wasn't even among the top 25 exports a decade ago, but that was before the shale revolution brought about a new age of energy abundance to America. In 2012, domestic oil production rose to nearly a 20-year high, helping lower oil imports to only 40.6% of U.S. oil consumption last year. That was the country's lowest dependence on foreign sources of oil since 1991, more than 20 years ago.

Today's trade report and the contribution of America's new energy abundance to the lowest trade balance in almost two years have some major implications for U.S. economic growth. Here's what Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein reported today:

Record exports of petroleum products coupled with the lowest crude oil imports in almost sixteen years led to the lowest trade balance since January 2010. As a result, we are now tracking a noticeable upward revision to real GDP growth in the fourth quarter. Last week, the government’s first estimate showed a slight contraction, at a 0.1% annual rate. Based on today’s trade data as well as recent figures on construction and inventories, we now project an upward revision to a +0.7% annual rate.