The United States is on track to be a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time in 6 decades.
No, you read that correctly. Yes, it is still 2011. Yes, Barack Obama–a Democrat–is still our president.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. exported 753.4 million barrels of petroleum during the first nine months of this year, while it imported 689.4 million barrels. This stunning news is a recent flip from previous trends. As recently as 2005, the U.S. imported 900 million barrels more petroleum than it exported according to the Wall Street Journal. Don’t believe me? See below:
You certainly wouldn’t think any of this true if you listened to Republican rhetoric. Republican talk about energy matters would lead one to think that it is impossible to extract fossil fuels in this country. Hence why we need to expand offshore drilling, open up drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and keep our hands off regulating natural gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). We NEED more domestic energy, we will just DIE without it.
Yet, the facts tell a different story. Not only are we a net exporter of petroleum products this year, but we continue to be a leading energy producer. According to the EIA, we rank second globally in coal production, we are third in oil production, and we are the second leading producer of natural gas. Despite these strong statistics, we still hear calls to “drill, baby, drill.”
But we clearly don’t need to drill, baby. The problem isn’t that the government doesn’t support domestic energy production. The problem is our consumption rate. We continually outpace our very strong and increasingly efficient ability to produce. The only way to fix matters is through a major shift in our nation’s infrastructure.
Of course, we can expand drilling; I mean, why stop at number two and three when we can be number one? But expanding won’t solve the inevitable problem that supply will—in the very near future—not be able to meet demand. As the world’s population grows, particularly in developing countries seeking to make their economic mark on the world, the demand will only increase, as the finite supply will decrease. This will lead to that inevitable price increase, and a strong one at that. Until we wean our need, fossil fuels will largely fit the bill of inelastic good that will command control of our wallets.
It’s not doomsday; it’s simple economics. The faster our country realizes that increasing supply is only a very temporary patch, the better off we will be.