U.S. Records First Month as Net Petro. Exporter but Infrastructure Buildout Key to Sustaining Exporter Position

Last week the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) published data on the country’s petroleum and crude oil position. For the first time since 1949 the United States is a net exporter of petroleum and crude oil products by nearly 90,000 barrels a day.

As reported by E&E News EIA calculations put average net imports for 2019 at 520,000 barrels per day but an expected net export position up to 750,000 barrels per day in 2020. Moreover, the anticipated 2020 turnaround compares starkly with previous decades that lacked production from the ongoing shale production boom.

Since the 1970s the U.S. has been heavily dependent on petroleum and crude oil imports, reaching imports over 6.5 million barrels per day. That dependency extended well into the 1990s – trending upwards to 8.5 million daily barrels – and into the 21st century before peaking at 10 million a day in the year 2000.

In 2003 – a year when the country imported over 9 million petroleum and crude barrels daily – Time Magazine captured Americans’ energy frustrations in a piece titled ‘Why U.S. Is Running Out of Gas.’ Authors Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele noted “…it is that the U.S. is likely to be faced with recurring oil and natural-gas crises for some years to come. Their duration and severity remain to be seen,” with consequences of “…a hidden tax of tens of billions of dollars on American consumers.”

Energy independence has long been a policy goal of the U.S for national security, private commerce, and consumer purposes. Bartlett and Steele highlight the earlier legislative efforts to combat the country’s reliance of foreign energy. President Richard Nixon in 1973 pledged that “…in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy.”

History reminds that legislative solutions lacked the necessary oomph and industry how-to to achieve energy independence. Instead, private investment in production, transport, and export infrastructure have redefined the American energy industry.

Thanks to the development of safer and more efficient production methods in the shale industry production records in the Bakken and Permian regions continue to be broken monthly if not weekly.

The latest data from the EIA is encouraging though industry members and government officials must plan extensively for the future. This includes promoting the development of the right infrastructure. Industry members are taking the lead by showcasing better and better production technologies, creating sophisticated and safer transport systems, and efficient export terminals on the country’s coasts.

With the country turning to a new electoral season and much talk from Democratic primary hopefuls interested in reorienting away from fossil fuels it is important to consider the significance of the county being on the cusp of achieving an energy goal five decades in the making.

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