Imports fill the gap between U.S. energy use and U.S. energy production
The United States is one of the largest energy importers in the world. The United States was generally self-sufficient in energy up to the early 1950s, and annual energy exports were greater than energy imports.1 In the mid-1950s, the United States began importing greater amounts of crude oil and petroleum products (such as gasoline and distillate fuels) to fill the gap between petroleum consumption and domestic production. The United States also imported natural gas to help supply natural gas demand.
Total U.S. annual primary energy net imports (imports minus exports) generally increased in most years since the mid-1950s and reached a record high in 2005, equal to about 30% of total U.S. energy consumption. Since 2005, annual energy imports decreased and energy exports increased.
In 2019, total U.S. energy exports were greater than total energy imports, and the United States became a net total energy exporter for the first time since 1952.
Domestic crude oil production has increased since 2008 and natural gas production has increased since 2006. The increases in crude oil production and the easing of restrictions on crude oil exports in December 2015 have contributed to increases in crude oil exports. Increases in natural gas production along with increases in liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capacity have contributed to increases in natural gas exports in recent years. In 2011, the United States became a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since at least 1949. In 2017, the United States became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time since the late 1950s.
In 2019, U.S. total annual energy exports exceeded total annual energy imports for the first time in 67 years, and the United States became a net total energy exporter. Total primary energy exports reached a record high of 23.5 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) and total primary energy imports were 22.8 quads, the lowest amount since 1995.
Crude oil is the largest source of U.S. energy imports
Crude oil accounts for the largest share of U.S. energy imports, and the United States remained a net importer of crude oil in 2019. However, in 2019, U.S. crude oil net imports were at the lowest level since the mid-1980s. The United States has always been a net exporter of coal, which reduces net total energy imports.
1 Based on the energy content of energy sources.
Last updated: April 27, 2020