U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the United States exporting gasoline when prices are so high?
In 2011, the United States exported more petroleum products, on an annual basis, than it imported for the first time since 1949. American refiners still imported large, although declining, amounts of crude oil. Gasoline exports were about 18% of total U.S. petroleum product exports in 2011, however, on a monthly basis, the U.S. was a small net exporter by the end of the year. Distillate fuel exports were about 30% of total U.S. petroleum product exports in 2011.
Most of the U.S. exports for gasoline and distillate come from the U.S. Gulf Coast where an excess in supply has resulted from both declining U.S. demand for gasoline (preliminary data for 2011 show U.S. gasoline consumption 6% lower than 2007) and increasing refining capacity. Gulf Coast refineries have a competitive advantage in some world markets. They have a sophisticated refining complex and can run relatively lower quality, and cheaper crude oils. In addition, they use natural gas for their fuel, which at current prices is an advantage compared to refineries fueled by petroleum, and have good water access and a location that allows for a relatively short-haul voyage to growing Latin American markets.
Historically, the U.S. market has relied extensively on gasoline imports for supply, particularly on the East Coast which has been the destination of about 85% of total U.S. gasoline imports. The Gulf Coast refineries export product rather than send more to the East Coast which receives most of its gasoline import volumes because pipeline capacity and domestic waterborne shipping constraints currently discourage increased volumes from traveling from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. As long as European and other gasoline supplies remain competitive, the East Coast will continue to draw on these supplies. Additionally, expanded Midwest refining capacity is backing out requirements to ship products from the Gulf Coast north to that area.
The growth in U.S. gasoline exports does not necessarily mean higher pump prices for U.S. consumers. Rather, export markets are providing an outlet for refiners that might otherwise have faced lower profit margins that could encourage them to reduce output or possibly even shutdown, which could cause gasoline prices to increase. The March 7 edition of This Week In Petroleum, Déjà vu all over again? provides an analysis of key factors that the U.S. Energy Information Administration believes are driving gasoline prices.
Posted: April 20, 2012
Other FAQs about Gasoline
- Can I tell where the gasoline at my local station comes from?
- Does EIA have city or county-level energy consumption and price data?
- Does EIA have gasoline prices by city, county, or zip code?
- How can I find historical gasoline prices for each state?
- How many gallons of gasoline does one barrel of oil make?
- How much carbon dioxide is produced by burning gasoline and diesel fuel?
- What was the highest U.S. average retail price of regular gasoline?
- What's up (and down) with gasoline prices?
- Where can I find inflation-adjusted gasoline prices?
- Why are the retail pump prices for gasoline and diesel fuel in increments of 0.9 cents?
- Why don't fuel prices change as quickly as crude oil prices?
- Why is the United States exporting gasoline when prices are so high?
- How much ethanol is in gasoline and how does it affect fuel economy?
- How much gasoline does the United States consume?
- How much tax do we pay on a gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel?
- What do I pay for in a gallon of regular gasoline?
- What is the outlook for gasoline prices for 2013 and for 2014?