Petroleum Production, Consumption and Imports, United States, 1949-2016

Petroleum Production Consumption and Imports United States 1949 2016

Source: US Energy Information Agency, International Energy Annual Report.

The United States has different levels of energy dependency (production over consumption) according to the source of energy. It is self-sufficient for coal but must rely on imports for petroleum, particularly since it may be beyond its own peak oil, where peak domestic production occurred in the early 1970s. While the United States produced 69% the petroleum it consumed in 1970, this figure dropped to 25% in 2005. To insure a stability in oil supplies, the United States has diversified its suppliers. While OPEC was representing between 75 to 80% of imports in the 1970s and 1980s, this share is now around 55% in the 2010s. The new suppliers are Mexico, Venezuela, Canada and Nigeria, which are not OPEC members.

Through the 1960s and early 1970s, the price of petroleum was low and petroleum imports increased steadily with economic growth and the motorization of the American society. With the first oil shock (1973), the price of petroleum increased substantially resulting in a stabilization of petroleum imports. In 1980 the second oil shock substantially impacted on oil prices. Petroleum imports dropped significantly and domestic production increased as several domestic oil fields became profitable in such a context of high oil prices. The oil counter-shock of 1986 shifted this trend and petroleum imports resumed their growth.

In the 2000s, market and technological changes impacted American oil dependency, with the share of domestic oil production over consumption increased to 45% in 2015. This was mainly due to improved drilling and recovery technologies, particularly of oil shale and tar sands. This growth in domestic production was also impacted by a decline in domestic consumption, mostly the outcome of improvement in energy efficiency and the greater use of alternative sources of energy. The financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent years of lower economic growth impacted domestic oil demand as well, which appears to be leveling off.