U.S. is a Net Oil Exporter, Sort Of

Interesting chart from the EIA/DOE showing that the U.S. is a net exporter of oil, at least of the distillate product kind. It is a funky reflection of the kinds of distortions in world oil markets with wholesale distillate prices staying higher than gasoline, in part of regional subsidies in Asia.

[The U.S. as net importer of distillates] trade pattern changed significantly in the spring, summer, and fall of 2008 as wholesale prices for distillate soared above those for gasoline. Distillate prices have rarely been higher than gasoline during the summer months but, the summer of 2008 saw an unprecedented and sustained premium for distillate. A variety of factors were behind the unusually high margins. In South America, price controls were limiting Argentina’s production and export of natural gas, and a severe drought in Chile was reducing its hydroelectric generation. Distillate fuel for electrical generation was a convenient short-term substitute for these shortages. Prices began to rise quickly in the face of this extra demand, but several prominent distillate consumers, including China and India, shielded their domestic consumers from the increased costs through fuel subsidies and price controls. The normal economic process of higher prices encouraging reduced consumption was therefore muted or absent in these countries.