The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has unveiled a report showing that 2017 total energy imports to the U.S. fell by 35 percent, reaching their lowest total since 1982. Gross energy imports have been decreasing from a high in 2007, but the more significant factor impacting a decrease in the net energy trade balance has been the rise in energy exports. From 2016 to 2017, energy exports increased by 27 percent to match the highest level of exported energy on record.
Increasing U.S. energy exports have been driven principally by increases in exports of petroleum products and natural gas. In recent years, exports of crude oil have also contributed to the overall rise in energy exports after crude oil export restrictions were lifted at the end of 2015. In energy content terms, the United States now exports nearly as much crude oil as it does coal.
In 2017, the United States saw significant growth in fossil fuel exports, with crude oil (89 percent higher than in 2016), petroleum products (11 percent higher), natural gas (36 percent higher) and coal (61 percent higher) all increasing. Petroleum products such as propane, gasoline, distillate fuel, and other fuels currently make up the largest share (54 percent) of U.S. energy exports.
An eight percent increase in renewable energy also contributed to the decline in net imports. Wind and hydropower, as well as production increases in coal (six percent), natural gas plant liquids (six percent), crude oil (five percent), and natural gas (one percent), were also contributors. Total U.S. energy consumption was virtually unchanged from the previous year’s level.