Shift in the oil trade

Scott Tong Nov 30, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: American presidents as far back as Richard Nixon, I think, have talked about weaning this country off foreign oil. Or, at the very least, cutting how much we import from less-than-friendly places.

Well lookee here: This year the U.S. of A is on track to become a net petroleum exporter for the first time since the days of Harry Truman. From the Marketplce Sustainability Desk, Scott Tong reports.

Scott Tong: Here it is. We’re net exporters of what you call petroleum products. But we still import millions of barrels of crude oil every day.

So what are petroleum products? Consultant David Goldwyn, a former top official at the State Department, says U.S. drilling:

David Goldwyn: Has produced a lot of byproducts which we don’t need. Some of those are unfinished oils and other products. And we’re able sell those to other countries and reduce our balance of payments.

These are hydrocarbons like ethane, to make chemicals or the raw stuff for diesel. Now this boom is connected to an American crude oil boom. New technology gets crude, as well as natural gas, out of tight shale rock.

Energy economist Philip Verleger says that means:

Philip Verleger: We won’t be importing Nigerian crude. We won’t be importing West African crude. We probably won’t be importing crude from Brazil. We will be almost self-sufficient.

“Will be,” someday. Right now, Americans produce about half of what we burn. The rest still gets shipped in.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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