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• In 2017, U.S. exports of natural gas began to exceed U.S. natural gas imports.
• Rather than reversing recently, exports of natural gas have remained larger than imports since 2017.
How energy independent is the United States? And could the U.S. be losing that edge? Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., raised that prospect in a recent article.
Miller and fellow Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington state co-authored an article for RealClear Energy on July 28, 2021, titled, "Why Is the Biden Administration Attacking America's 'Energy Independence?'"
As evidence of what the United States had achieved in energy independence, the lawmakers wrote that the U.S. "became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017, and until recently, our exports have exceeded our imports."
Is that accurate? Mostly, except for the part about "until recently." (Miller’s office did not respond to inquiries for this article.)
Miller is correct that in 2017, U.S. exports of natural gas began exceeding imports, according to annual data tabulated by the Energy Information Administration, a federal office.
Data from the same office shows that since 2017, all of the United States’ consumption needs for natural gas could be supplied domestically, without needing to import any natural gas.
Natural gas exports have continued to exceed natural gas imports during the first seven months of 2021.
What this means is that Miller is wrong to say that U.S. exports of natural gas have outpaced imports "until recently."
On the other hand, oil has followed a different pattern from natural gas, and that may have been what Miller had been intending to write.
The data for crude oil and petroleum products shows that U.S. exports exceeded imports until October 2019, and they have remained in negative territory during most months since then.
This provides some backing for the notion that U.S. energy independence is at risk, but not for the focus on blaming Biden’s policies.
The lawmakers argued that President Joe Biden’s moves to pare back drilling in the U.S. and cancel the Keystone XL pipeline could endanger the United States’ hard-won energy independence. In addition, they wrote, the U.S. "hit a record high" for oil imports from Russia in June.
PolitiFact previously found claims about a recent spike in Russian oil imports to be generally accurate, although we also found the notion that the Keystone XL pipeline could have replaced these Russian imports to be inaccurate.
The data, meanwhile, shows that U.S. net imports for oil became negative more than a year before Biden took office.
"U.S. domestic production and consumption of oil both fell sharply last year," said Mark Finley, a fellow in energy and global oil at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. "Consumption fell due to COVID, both from a weaker economy and from transport-focused policies to limit the spread of the virus. Production fell because the collapse in U.S. and global crude-oil prices caused investment to contract sharply."
This year, Finley said, oil consumption "has recovered along with the economy and is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. And while production has also partially recovered, it has not come back strongly because companies, and their investors, remain cautious. So domestic consumption has recovered more rapidly than domestic production, pushing the U.S. back into being a small net oil importer. And while the new administration’s policies may over time affect the prospects for domestic production, that has not been the key driver this year."
Miller said, "We became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017, and until recently, our exports have exceeded our imports."
In 2017, U.S. exports of natural gas began to exceed U.S. natural gas imports, but exports of natural gas have remained larger than imports ever since, rather than reversing "recently."
We rate the statement Half True.
Carol Miller and Dan Newhouse, "Why Is the Biden Administration Attacking America's 'Energy Independence?'" (in RealClear Energy) July 28, 2021
Energy Information Administration, "Natural gas explained: Natural gas imports and exports," accessed Oct. 4, 2021
Energy Information Administration, "Natural Gas Summary," accessed Oct. 4, 2021
Energy Information Administration, "U.S. Net Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products," accessed Oct. 4, 2021
PolitiFact, "U.S. is importing large amount of Russian oil, but Facebook post misstates Keystone XL role," Aug. 23, 2021
Email interview with Mark Finley, fellow in energy and global oil at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, Sep. 2, 2021
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