Climate

What ‘War On American Energy’? U.S. On Track To Be Net Fuel Exporter For First Time Since 1949

Conservatives would have you believe that President Obama has led “nothing short of a war on American energy,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in May, repeating a common refrain. “Obama is waging war on American energy,” GOP presidential front runner Newt Gingrich agreed. Fellow candidate Rick Perry said Obama’s “draconian” energy policies don’t let Americans create energy “and sell it to the world.” “All of this killing of our energy supply,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), perhaps the industry’s biggest apologist in Congress. Of course, when conservatives say “energy,” they mean oil and fossil fuels, as they themselves have led a real war against American clean energy.

But like many conservative attacks on the president, the war on American energy is a fiction. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal reports today, U.S. exports of fossil fuels “are soaring” and the U.S. is on pace to be “a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 for the first time in 62 years”:

According to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday, the U.S. sent abroad 753.4 million barrels of everything from gasoline to jet fuel in the first nine months of this year, while it imported 689.4 million barrels.

That the U.S. is shipping out more fuel than it brings in is significant because the nation has for decades been a voracious energy consumer. It took in huge quantities of not only crude oil from the Middle East but also refined fuels from Europe, Latin America and elsewhere to help run its factories and cars. […]

The reversal raises the prospect of the U.S. becoming a major provider of various types of energy to the rest of the world, a status that was once virtually unthinkable. The U.S. already exports vast amounts of coal, and companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. are pursuing or exploring plans to liquefy newly abundant natural gas and send it overseas.

This is, of course, good news, even though much of it has to do with the faltering U.S. economy, which has driven down demand for fuel. But the new data also demonstrates the absurdity of conservative energy policy, which starts with the (baseless) assumption that domestic fossil fuel production is too low and follows that it must be incentivized with taxpayer dollars and licenses to pollute and bend labor safety rules in order to increase output.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil production is up, despite Obama’s mythical war against the industry. American drivers have seen little benefit from this, however, because prices are set in a global market, where quickly developing countries are driving up demand and thus prices. So increasing production here would have negligible impact on prices as American refineries would just ship their product abroad where it could fetch higher prices.

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