The United States has been an annual net total energy exporter since 2019
Up to the early 1950s, the United States produced most of the energy in consumed.1 Starting in the mid-1950s, the United States began to import greater amounts of energy, particularly crude oil and petroleum products (such as gasoline and distillate fuels) to fill the gap between energy consumption and production. U.S. total energy imports generally increased every year until peaking in 2007. Total energy imports subsequently declined in most years through 2021 as increases in U.S. energy production offset the need for imports and also contributed to increases in U.S. energy exports.
U.S. annual total energy net imports (imports minus exports) generally increased in most years from the mid-1950s until peaking in 2005 and equal to about 30% of total U.S. energy consumption. Since then, total energy net imports generally declined each year to a record low in 2021. The United States became a net total energy exporter in 2019 for the first time since 1952 and maintained that position in 2020 and 2021. U.S. total energy exports exceeded total energy imports by about 3.82 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) in 2021, the largest margin on record. U.S. total energy exports equaled about 25.25 quads, an increase of about 7.6% from 2020, and total energy imports were about 21.43 quads, an increase of about 7.2% from 2020.
U.S. net imports of crude oil and electricity increased while net exports of petroleum products, natural gas, and coal decreased in 2021
Crude oil accounts for the largest share of U.S. total energy imports on an energy content basis. Even though the United States remained a net importer of crude oil in 2021, crude oil net imports were at the second lowest annual level since 1985. Some of imported crude oil is refined into petroleum products that are exported.
After declining nearly every year since 2005, U.S. total petroleum net imports increased in 2021, mostly because of an increase in U.S. crude oil net imports. U.S. crude oil imports increased in 2021 and crude oil exports decreased in part because of reductions in U.S. crude oil production in 2021 resulting from lingering effects of the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. crude oil exports dropped in 2021 after having increased every year since 2010 and reaching a record high in 2020. U.S. crude oil imports increased by about 235,000 b/d in 2021 to about 6.1 million b/d. Crude oil net imports were about 3.1 million b/d in 2021.
U.S. petroleum products (excluding crude oil) imports and exports both increased in 2021; imports by 19% and exports by 7%. Even though total annual petroleum products exports in 2021 were the highest on record, they were not enough to offset imports, and petroleum product net imports increased in 2021.
Total natural gas exports increased every year since 2014, and in 2017, the United States became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time since the late 1950s. In 2021, total natural gas exports reached a record high of 6.65 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), or about 18.23 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). Increases in domestic natural gas production and increases in liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capacity have contributed to growth in U.S. natural gas exports. Even though U.S total imports of natural gas increased by 10% to about 7.69 Bc/d in 2021, natural gas exports contributed to record low natural gas net imports.
Trade volumes of coal and other fuels account for relatively small shares of U.S. total energy trade. U.S. annual coal exports, increased in 2019 and 2020, decreased in 2019 and 2020, and then increased in 2021. The United States has been a net coal exporter since at least 1949.
1 Primary energy and based on the energy content of energy sources.
Last updated: June 10, with data published in April 2022 editions of source reports; data for 2021 are preliminary.