Thursday, September 1, 2011

USA Starts Kicking Foreign Oil Habit! Oil Imports Down 11%

It looks like the USA has an emerging energy policy that is actually working to break our addiction to foreign oil. 

Oil imports in August 2011 where 11% lower than in August 2010, according to an article in the August 27th Wall Street  Journal.  These 2011 oil import declines build on lower imports in 2010 when oil imports were their lowest level since 2003.

What is the emerging energy policy that has begun to wean the USA off of foreign oil?   Rapidly rising biofuels production driven by a federal renewable energy standard, significantly raised federal fuel efficiency standards for cars, growing usage of natural gas and electricty to power transportation, and rising domestic US oil production add up to a recipe, almost a policy, for ending foreign oil imports.

Yet, providers of addiction treatment know that beating an addiction is a daily battle for the patient.  And the progress made in 2010 and 2011 could be easily reversed, unless the policy needed to end our foreign oil addiction is boosted.

Specifically, while the federal policies are in place to increase biofuels and increase vehicle fuel efficiency, no coherent federal or state policy exists on promoting the use of gas and electricity in transportation.  This is a major hole in policy that must be filled.

High global oil prices as long as they last will provide major financial incentives for oil drilling in the US and shale oil is a major new resource.  But will high global oil prices persist? 

Given booming Chinese and Indian demand for oil, the odds are high that global oil prices will be at least where they are today and quite likely much higher within the next 5 years.

While fueling domestic oil drilling, those higher global oil prices mean that another oil price shock is likely around the corner.  Our economy can barely afford $80 per barrel oil and US economic growth is crippled by oil prices at $125 per barrel or higher. 

We must reduce our oil consumption and end our reliance on foreign oil to protect our economy and national security.  While few Americans know it, important progress in doing both is now underway.  But our progress is fragile and must be nurtured with further smart policy.


  1. You don't think this is primarily a function of the recession and consequently reduced demand?

    Seem to be mixing a lot of thoughts here.
    I'd like to see some quantitative analysis of which factors contribute how much to reduced imports... I would imagine that oil from shale, biofuels, and the recession all made significant contributions, while gains in fleet use of natural gas and electric cars, and efficiency standards may have played less of a role. That's just a guess. It's too bad the government isn't offering more research on these issues. Could be a great opportunity for educating the public if Congress would quit cutting funding to places like the Energy Information Administration

  2. GDP stopped shrinking by the end of the second quarter of 2009. We have had two years or 8 quarters of low but positive GDP growth since then. The 2010 GDP was higher than the 2009 GDP but oil imports in 2010 were lower than in 2009. GDP in August 2011 was higher than GDP in August 2010 but oil imports were 11% lower. The decline in oil imports is not primarily tied to GDP. I would say three factors have principally led to the decline: 1. rising domestic oil production; 2. High gasoline prices decreasing oil demand; 3. Rising biofuel production.