For the first time since 1949, the United States is poised to become a net exporter of petroleum products, according to the Petroleum Supply Monthly report for November, put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Through the first nine months of 2011, the U.S. exported 753.4 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and other oil-based fuels while only importing 689.4 million barrels. America's neighbors were far and away the biggest consumers of Yankee petroleum. Mexico imported more than 150 million barrels, while Canada brought in slightly more than 64 million. The next closest country - Brazil - imported about 40 million barrels.
Jeremy Friesen, a commodity strategist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News that part of the reason for the shift is that America's consumption of oil has remained stagnant compared to the rest of the world. "The U.S. has been flat or down for overall oil consumption versus the world, which continues to rise mainly due to emerging markets," he said. "Latin American fuel demand continues to be pretty good."
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. consumers used 7.7 percent less gasoline this August compared to four years prior, when usage hit its apex. In addition, the increased use of ethanol has depressed the consumption of gasoline.
While most experts are citing decreased domestic consumption as the driving force behind the reversal of the 62-year-old trend, increased domestic production is also playing a role. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, domestic crude oil production has gone up over the past two years in part because of work in the Gulf of Mexico and the increased development of shale gas reserves.
One of the most prominent shale oil plays - the Bakken in North Dakota - saw gas production at 485 million cubic feet per day in September of this year, which is a more than three-fold increase over that figure in 2005, reports the EIA. Expressed another way, the Bakken produced 424,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in July, an 86 percent increase over the same month in 2009, reports the Journal.
Another domestic source of petroleum producs that has taken off in recent years is the Eagle Ford shale in Texas. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, the first eight months of 2011 saw the play produce more than 8 million barrels of shale oil, compared to the about 3.76 million it produced in all of 2010.
Additionally, 2011 shale gas production in the Eagle Ford play through August reached 139 billion cubic feet, while the entire 2010 total was 108 billion cubic feet. The increased production and dwindling consumption in the U.S., combined with eager international markets have worked together to put America in the position to be a net oil exporter.
"Instead of that product backing up and depressing prices, it's being sent to other countries," Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, told the Chronicle. According to some the U.S. will remain a net exporter of petroleum products for years to come, as the 900 million barrel figure the country imported in 2005 has steadily declined.
"It looks like a trend that could stay in place for the rest of the decade," Dave Ernsberger, global director of oil with Platts, told The Wall Street Journal. "The conventional wisdom is that U.S. is this giant black hole sucking in energy from around the world. This changes that dynamic. "
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