It’s been a long time coming.
Since we started keeping records in 1949, the U.S. has always imported more oil and petroleum products than it shipped out. That flow reversed in September, when for the first time the U.S. became a net petroleum exporting nation.
According the International Energy Agency, the U.S. exported 89,000 barrels per day more than it imported during the month of September. Earlier this year the U.S. had been a net exporter over the period of a week here and there, but never for a full month.
Bob McNally, a former energy adviser to President George W. Bush and president of the consulting firm Rapidan Energy Group, said:
“The U.S. return to being a net exporter serves to remind how the oil industry can deliver surprises — in this case, the shale oil revolution – that upend global oil prices, production, and trade flows.”
The U.S. should be energy independent on paper within months. Even when we achieve that status, we’ll still import oil because it’s more efficient to bring oil from Canada to refining locations just over the border than to transport domestic oil that far, and refineries are locked into the types of oil they are able to crack.
But the change in flow, from net importing to net exporting, dramatically affects our balance of payments because we don’t ship as many U.S. dollars out of the country every year.