After reaching over $350 billion in 2008, the net burden of imports fell sharply in 2009 as a consequence of both the Great Recession and the fall in oil prices. Lately, however, it has been going back up. The following graph from the Energy Information Administration only includes data to the end of 2010, but the 20 percent rise in oil prices from the end of 2010 to the present (February 24, 2012) ensures that the net energy deficit has lately grown larger. Domestic oil production, though increasing, has not grown by a comparable 20 percent in the last 14 months.
According to Bloomberg—which used a misleading headline, “Americans Gaining Energy Independence with U.S. as Top Producer”—the United States has increased the percentage of demand met from domestic sources to an estimated 81 percent through the first 10 months of 2011, the highest level since 1992.
U.S. energy self-sufficiency has been steadily rising since 2005, when it hit a low of 70 percent . . . . Domestic crude oil production rose 3.6 percent last year to an average 5.7 million barrels a day, the highest since 2003, according to the Energy Department. . . . [The Bloomberg figures do not include natural gas liquids or biofuels, which boosts domestic production by another 3 mbd or so].
At the same time, the efficiency of the average U.S. passenger vehicle has helped limit demand. It increased to 29.6 miles per gallon in 2011 from 19.9 mpg in 1978, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. . . .
With the price of a barrel of oil at about $100, a drop of 4 million barrels a day in oil imports -- which . . . could happen by 2020, if not before -- would shave $145 billion off the deficit. Through the first 11 months of last year, the trade gap was $513 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Crude for March delivery settled at $96.91 a barrel yesterday [February 5, 2012] on the New York Mercantile Exchange. . . .
The U.S. likely became a net exporter of refined oil products last year for the first time since 1949. And it will probably become a net exporter of natural gas early in the next decade . . . .
Crude production in the U.S. is already increasing. Within three years, domestic output could reach 7 million barrels a day, the highest in 20 years . . . The U.S. produced 5.9 million barrels of crude oil a day in December, while consuming 18.5 million barrels of petroleum products . . . North Dakota -- the center of the so-called tight-oil transformation -- is now the fourth largest oil-producing state, behind Texas, Alaska and California. . . .
Automakers have agreed to raise the fuel economy of the vehicles they sell in the U.S. to a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 under an agreement last year with the Obama administration. . . .
The 2008-09 recession helped lower oil demand, and consumption has lagged even as the economy has recovered, said Judith Dwarkin, director of energy research for ITG Investment Research in Calgary. Coupled with higher domestic output, “this has translated into an import requirement of some 15.4 barrels per person per year -- about on par with the mid-1990s.” . . .
The following Bloomberg chart shows the recent surplus in net exports of refined oil products:
Oil statistics can be tricky to pin down. The first chart below (reporting data from the Energy Information Administration) shows petroleum imports (including crude oil and products) at 11 million barrels a day at the end of 2011, whereas the second chart (direct from the EIA) shows net imports of crude oil and petroleum products falling in December 2011 to 7.4 million barrels a day. The figures don't quite add up; there are around 3 mbd of exports of petroleum products, but crude oil exports are negligible.