Society

U.S. Gas Prices Still High as U.S. Exports Gasoline

| by Michael Allen

It may surprise many people that the United States is exporting a record amount of gasoline, even as U.S. gas prices hover around $4 a gallon domestically.

Rather than bring down gas prices in the U.S., domestic oil companies are selling their gasoline overseas for big profits. It appears that profit trumps patriotism again.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. exported 430,000 more barrels of gasoline a day than it imported in September,  That is about twice the amount at the start of the year, and experts and industry insiders say the trend is here to stay.

The U.S. began exporting gas in late 2008. For decades prior, starting in 1960, the country used all the gas it produced here plus had to import gas from places in Europe.

Demand for gas has dropped nearly 10% in recent years. It went from a peak of 9.6 million barrels a day in 2007 to 8.8 million barrels today, according to the EIA.

The drop was caused partially by the recession but also by the advent of more fuel efficient vehicles, higher prices and the greater use of ethanol as an ingredient in gasoline. Demand for other products made from crude oil like diesel and jet fuel has also declined, although not as much.

The United States is still importing plenty of oil to make that gasoline -- and is still dependent on foreign countries for well over half the crude it uses. (Read: OPEC: We want clean energy.)

But now the country's massive refining infrastructure is producing more gasoline, diesel and jet fuel than the United States needs, freeing it up to be exported to places like Brazil, Mexico and Chile where demand is still strong.

Itmay be bewildering for American drivers, who could experience record high gas prices next year even though U.S. demand could hit the lowest level in a decade, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

"I can understand it, from a truck driver's perspective," said Kloza. "You're paying $4 or $4.50 a gallon to run your rig, yet we're exporting the crap out of this fuel. I'd be outraged too."