Energy | Ecotrope

How Much Energy Does The U.S. Export?

Ecotrope | Dec. 17, 2012 2:05 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:28 p.m.

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A report from the Energy Information Administration highlights the downturn in U.S. energy imports and surge in energy exports over the past couple years, as illustrated in the graphs above.

A report from the Energy Information Administration highlights the downturn in U.S. energy imports and surge in energy exports over the past couple years, as illustrated in the graphs above.

I found this report from the Energy Information Administration interesting in light of the coal and liquefied natural gas export proposals looming in the Pacific Northwest.

The U.S. imported almost three times as much energy as it exported in 2011. That might sound like a big spread, but it’s way down from 2002 when energy imports were more than eight times exports. Energy imports have exceeded exports every year since 1952, according to EIA. But exports are starting to catch up.

Most of the U.S. energy imports and exports are petroleum, but in 2011 natural gas made up a good chunk of the energy imports and coal was a considerable component of the energy exported by the U.S.

Last year, about 86 percent of U.S. energy imports were petroleum, with Canada providing the largest share, followed by Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria.

Of the remaining imports, 12 percent were natural gas. Other fuel sources such as coal, coal coke, biofuels and electricity combined to make up 2 percent of U.S. energy imports.

Now, as for exports, the EIA reports petroleum made up 57 percent of the energy the U.S. exported in 2011. Most of it was products that are made from crude oil in refineries such as gasoline blending components.

Coal and coal coke were 27 percent of U.S. energy exports, and natural gas was 15 percent.

I wonder how those numbers might change if any of the proposed coal or LNG export terminals are built in the Northwest.

On Friday, the New York Times weighed in on LNG exports in an editorial encouraging the U.S. Department of Energy to approve several projects for the economic and political benefits. To address the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the editorial advocates for tighter restrictions of gas production, not export restrictions.

Earlier this month, the DOE released a report showing LNG exports would have a net benefit to the U.S. economy. The New York Times suggests LNG export could also provide climate benefits, though it would gradually raise gas prices in the U.S.:

“There will be trade-offs to lifting the export restrictions. On the plus side, the report says that exports of gas in liquefied form could provide a $47 billion boost to the economy by 2020, including the construction of gas terminals. While the report dwells largely on economic issues, exports would also help to lower emissions linked to global climate change by giving countries like India, China, Japan and Germany access to a cleaner energy source than coal.”

This sets up an interesting question about whether exporting natural gas could alleviate demand for coal overseas. Would you advocate for exporting LNG if it would reduce global coal burning and the pressure for more coal exports from the U.S.?

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