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The amount of petroleum that the U.S. exports is small in comparison to the amount consumed. Petroleum exports, which are mainly petroleum products, have been rising in recent years. Until 2004, petroleum exports accounted for one million barrels per day or less. During a span of just seven years, from 2004 until 2011, U.S. petroleum exports increased nearly threefold to 2.9 million barrels per day. In 2011, total U.S. consumption of petroleum was 18.8 million barrels per day.
Concerns have been raised that increasing petroleum exports are contributing to rising fuel costs by restricting U.S. fuel supplies. However, the Energy Information Administration has suggested that exports may in fact be helping to stabilize fuel prices. With U.S. refiners selling to outside markets, they are able to operate their facilities at more consistent and economically viable levels rather than continually adjusting output solely based on U.S. demands. When refiners cut production due to weak demand or low profit margins, this causes the price of fuel to rise at the pump for consumers.
U.S. Petroleum Exports, 1973-2011
Note: Petroleum exports include petroleum products (98%) and crude oil (2%).
Sources: Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, May 2012, Table 3.3a. U. S. Energy Information Administration, "Why is the United States exporting gasoline when prices are so high?"