The US energy imports and exports nearly equalized in May, according to data released by the country's Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday.
Recalling that the US had been a net energy exporter for several months of the past year, the EIA explained that changes in domestic production and declines in global energy demand since mid-March in response to COVID-19 have shifted energy trade balances back into the direction of net imports, particularly for US crude oil and petroleum products.
“The US exported slightly more energy than it imported in May 2020; imports and exports were each about 1.7 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu),” the EIA said.
According to the EIA data, US energy exports decreased by 15% and imports dropped by 19% compared with May 2019.
Generally speaking, the US imports more crude oil than it exports, but exports more fuel, gas, and coal than it imports.
Trade volumes for other fuels such as biofuels, biomass, electricity, nuclear fuel, and coal coke are relatively small.
In 2019, the US exported more total energy on an annual basis than it first imported in 67 years. Net exports in the US hit a record-high monthly quantity of 480 trillion Btu in March 2020 but dropped to just 2 trillion Btu in May.
The US has been a net importer of crude oil on a monthly basis since at least 1973, the earliest monthly data on record.
US monthly net imports reached a peak of 10.5 million barrels per day (b/d) in August 2006. Over the past decade, increases in domestic crude oil production and the loosening of crude oil export restrictions have reduced US crude oil net imports.
In April 2020, US gross imports of crude oil fell to 5.5 million b/d, the lowest monthly amount since February 1992, before increasing again to 6.1 million b/d in May 2020.
US gross exports of crude oil declined to 2.9 million b/d in May 2020, the lowest monthly amount since August 2018.
The US has been a net exporter of natural gas, petroleum products and coal. Other fuels such as biomass, electricity, and coal coke collectively accounted for about 1% of both US gross energy imports and gross energy exports in May 2020.
By Sibel Morrow