Energy independence for the United States?

The International Energy Agency has forecast that the Unites States, this year, will be liquids independent on a monthly basis, and on an annual basis next year, with the net result of that nation being a net exporter of oil.

But does being a net exporter mean being energy independent, a holy grail for American domestic and foreign policy for decades?

Shawn Bennett, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of oil and Natural Gas, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) spoke to Pipeline News on the sidelines of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference on May 29in Regina.

Bennett said, “When you’re talking about crude, you’re talking about crude quality. You’re talking about a commodity that, you know, from refineries and the way they are tooled, we are going to have to trade with different countries who have different crude types. That’s very important to understand.

“While we can hopefully produce the amount we consume, that trade between countries, depending on different crude characteristics, will always be needed, because we have to make sure that crude fits within our refineries.

“Refineries are a very exact science. Let’s equate it to baking. Refineries are like baking. You have to be exact. You can’t add two extra scoops of sugar, because that would make your cake not taste very good. Just like it would not make you refinery run very well. So you have to find those crude characteristics that are complementary to your refinery, just as you have to follow an exact recipe. So an exchange of product, on an international scale, is always going to be part of our international trade.”

Canada exports about three million barrels of oil per day to the United States. Asked if the U.S. is thus exporting a similar amount, Bennett said, “Yes, that’s what it is, about three million a day.”

“But the crude that comes from Canada, that goes to Detroit and my home state of Ohio, it’s very important for our energy mix. We’d like to see more of that, coming into the United States, that would offset crude coming from Venezuela as well. There’s an opportunity there.”

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