WASHINGTON – The United States is approaching a historic economic tipping point: in about a decade, the country will cease to be a net importer of energy, a government forecaster predicted Tuesday.
Sometime around 2028, the U.S. will become a net energy exporter for the first time since the late 1950s, according to the annual long-term forecast released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
It said lower consumption, more efficient vehicles, increased domestic production of oil and natural gas and new alternative sources are making the U.S. more energy self-reliant than it’s been in decades.
There’s a caveat, however, when it comes to crude oil.
The agency projects the U.S. will require crude imports for the foreseeable future — albeit at a diminishing rate.
It says the U.S.’s net crude imports will go from 6.2 million barrels per day in 2013, to 3.3 million barrels per day in 2040. Put in other terms, net imports would go from 33 per cent of domestic consumption to 17 per cent of consumption.
Those crude statistics are particularly relevant in Canada, which is by far the U.S.’s top oil supplier. The U.S. imported 3.2 million barrels a day from Canada in January — more than OPEC and about the same as the next eight countries, combined.
Canada has been supplanting other suppliers in the U.S. market and the projections released Tuesday, if accurate, mean current imports from Canada alone would be equivalent over time to net U.S. crude imports — meaning the amount of oil the U.S. imports, minus the amount of product it exports.
As for the overall gross-level imports of crude, the U.S. is projected to keep bringing in more than six million barrels per day through the 2020s and Canada could supply more than half of that.
Tuesday’s report was the first released since the plunge in global oil prices. It projected that Brent crude wouldn’t hit $100 a barrel again until the late 2020s, although that reference case was supplemented by other low- and high-price scenarios.
It said Canadian oil production would keep growing, although at a slightly slower rate than predicted in last year’s report.
The report said Canada would be producing 5.05 million barrels per day in petroleum products in 2020 — compared with a prediction last year of 5.1 million barrels a day by 2020.
Last year’s report, however, did not forecast the dramatic drop in oil prices.