U.S. Reliance on Energy Imports, Sign of Economic Weakness?

Real gross domestic product grows by 2.7 percent per year from 2009 to 2035, and oil prices grow to about $125 per barrel (2009 dollars) in 2035. In this environment, net imports of energy meet a major, but declining, share of total U.S. energy demand.

The need for energy imports is offset by the increased use of biofuels (much of which are produced domestically), demand reductions resulting from the adoption of new vehicle fuel economy standards, and rising energy prices. Rising fuel prices also spur domestic energy production across all fuels—particularly, natural gas from plentiful shale gas resources—and temper the growth of energy imports. The net import share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2035 is 17 percent, compared with 24 percent in 2009. (The share was 29 percent in 2007, but it dropped considerably during the 2008-2009 recession.)

Much of the projected decline in the net import share of energy supply is accounted for by liquids. Although U.S. consumption of liquid fuels continues to grow through 2035, reliance on petroleum imports as a share of total liquids consumption decreases. Total U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035. The import share, which reached 60 percent in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 51 percent in 2009, falls to 42 percent in 2035 (See Graph).

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