API: Oil, natural gas boost 2015 US trade balance

The oil and natural gas industry continues to drive US economic gains in 2015, a trend that could accelerate under free trade policies, noted American Petroleum Institute Chief Economist John Felmy in comments about the Aug. 5 midyear trade report from the US Department of Commerce.

“Despite a very competitive global market, the US energy revolution continues to push our trade balance in a positive direction,” Felmy said. “Oil imports remain on the decline, and strong exports of petroleum and refined products are creating new opportunities for America to bring wealth and jobs back to US shores.”

Bolstered by the surge in US oil and natural gas production, the total US trade deficit had dropped to $508 billion by 2014, after peaking at $762 billion in 2006. Today’s report, covering trade data through June, shows that the US trade deficit among petroleum and petroleum products fell 56.1% compared with first-half 2014. That growth helped to hold the total US year-over-year trade balance steady, despite a 23.1% increase in the trade deficit among nonpetroleum products.

Due to low commodity prices, the value of US petroleum and product exports fell $20.2 billion, despite high export volumes, but petroleum-related imports fell faster, down $78.6 billion compared with the first 6 months of 2014.

“Outdated trade policies are among the biggest threats to America’s continued growth right now,” Felmy said. “Accelerating approval of LNG export terminals and lifting the 1970s era ban on crude oil exports would put America in the driver’s seat on trade. America is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas, providing our workers an important competitive advantage in the global market. And study after study shows that lifting the ban on crude exports will mean more jobs, downward pressure on fuel costs, and could reduce the power that foreign suppliers have over our allies overseas.”

He said, “Strong, bipartisan legislation to accelerate America’s growth as an energy superpower is now making its way through both chambers of Congress. We urge members of the House and Senate to make free trade in energy a top priority when they return from their August recess.”

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