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US energy trade lowers overall US trade deficit

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

In 2020, the US net merchandise trade value of energy products - the value of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and electricity exports less the value of their imports - was a surplus of US$27 billion. The US Energy Information Administration reports that this amount marks the first time the value of US energy exports exceeded imports since at least 1974, the earliest year in the US Census Bureau’s trade value data.

In 2020, the US net merchandise trade value of non-energy goods (which compares the value of all US exports to all imports) reached a record US$938 billion deficit, contributing to the record total US net trade value deficit of US$911 billion. Through the first six months of 2021, the US net trade value of energy was a surplus of US$9 billion, and non-energy trade was a deficit of US$505 billion.

Petroleum accounts for the vast majority of US energy trade: 92% of import value and 74% of export value in 2020. The net US petroleum trade value deficit peaked in 2008, but it has fallen over the past decade as volumes of US petroleum exports increased to record-high levels and imports decreased. The 2020 net US petroleum trade value deficit was US$3 billion, the smallest on record, partially because of less consumption amid COVID-19 mitigation efforts. In its latest ‘Short-Term Energy Outlook’, the EIA forecasts that the US will continue to import more petroleum than it will export in 2021 and 2022.

Natural gas accounts for an increasing share of the US energy trade, and it accounted for 5% of energy import value and 22% of energy export value in 2020, resulting in a surplus of US$26 billion. Volumes of US natural gas exports reached a record high in 2020, and they have continued to increase in 2021. Through the first six months of 2021, the US exported record volumes of pipeline gas to Mexico and LNG.

Coal and electricity account for relatively small portions of the energy trade value. The US has been a net exporter of coal volumes since at least 1949 and a net importer of electricity since 1969.

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