Paul Sankey of Deutsche just seems to love coming up with this sort of thing. We need a word for the bizarre-energy-factoid-that-tells-you-less-than-you-think-it-does. A Sankey-ism? A Skerb?
Anyway, while the following is plausible — the U.S. could end up being a net fuels exporter — it has more to do with over-build refining capacity than with a dramatic contraction in U.S. energy consumption. In other words, it’s striking, and great cocktail chatter (for we energy geeks), but almost certainly less important than it might seem.
Growing foreign demand for fuel has boosted revenue for U.S. refiners, providing some much-needed relief to an industry rocked by the recent recession and still facing wobbly domestic gasoline and diesel demand from consumers dealing with high unemployment. The country could become a net overall fuels exporter in 2011, said Paul Sankey, senior analyst at Deutsche Bank.
“Since 2006, the U.S. has moved from over 3.5 million barrels a day of net product imports to almost none,” Sankey said. That trend is “the single biggest bull indicator for U.S. refiners,” he said.
The U.S. exported 10.8 million barrels of refined fuels in October 2010, up 16% from the same month last year and up 44% from October 2008, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics. The increase is a result of a cheaper dollar, refinery interruptions worldwide, and South America’s rising appetite for refined fuel.
Meanwhile, fuel imports were 12.2 million barrels in October 2010, down 28% from 17 million barrels in October 2008, as the recession and high unemployment forced domestic drivers to cut back on commuting. While the U.S. has traditionally been an occasional exporter of diesel fuel, its gasoline shipments are also starting to climb.
The trend illustrates how fuel demand has grown in developing countries and stagnated in more developed markets, which are increasingly turning to alternative fuels and still licking economic wounds incurred during the global financial crisis.
The last time that the U.S. spent the year as a net petroleum products exporter was 1949, according to EIA statistics.