Surge in fuel exports boosting US trade balance

HOUSTON — Growing production of U.S. oil and gas is helping to improve the nation’s trade balance, according to a federal report Monday.

Dramatic growth in the export of refined petroleum products, such as jet fuel and gasoline, has led the way. The value of net refined exports increased 55 percent in 2013 over the prior year, reaching $33 billion, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

U.S. refiners are finding cheaper domestic alternatives to overseas oil, causing a rally in the ratio of refined fuel exports to imports. Overall energy export values increased 8 percent in 2013 over the prior year.

Total energy imports to the U.S. fell by 11 percent for the same time period.

Trade balance: Obama falling short on exports, but fuel shipments booming

The shifts have helped push down the U.S. trade deficit to its lowest level in four years, because of the importance of energy imports and exports. Energy accounts for 15 percent of gross goods imports and 7 percent of gross goods exports, the EIA said.

The increase in production also has dampened imports. Natural gas imports fell 14 percent in 2013 over the prior year and net crude imports fell by 16 percent.

The glut of refined products for export is the result of the boom in tight oil and shale gas that has swept plays from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale to the West Texan Permian Basin.

The boom has renewed debate over whether to open US crude oil for exports, which largely was banned in the aftermath of the OPEC crisis in the 1970s.


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