U.S. net petroleum imports declined in 2010, continuing a trend since 2005. Many factors contributed to this, but biofuels played a key role, and they are expected to play an increasing role in the future. Declining import dependence helps reduce the U.S. trade deficit and keeps more energy dollars working closer to home, sustaining jobs. Displacing petroleum imports with domestically produced biofuels is especially important at a time of soaring oil prices.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that net petroleum imports declined to 49 percent of U.S. demand in 2010. “The economic downturn after the financial crisis of 2008, improvements in efficiency, changes in consumer behavior and patterns of economic growth, all contributed to the decline in petroleum consumption,” according to EIA. “At the same time, increased use of domestic biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), and strong gains in domestic production of crude oil and natural gas plant liquids expanded domestic supplies and reduced the need for imports.” In 2005, U.S. import dependence exceeded 60 percent.
The U.S. Economics and Statistics Administration (part of the Department of Commerce) reports that in 2010, “the petroleum-related trade deficit totaled $265 billion and accounted for 42 percent of our total deficit in goods."
The EIA projects in its reference case scenario that U.S. net oil import dependence will decline further to 42 percent by 2035, with increasing amounts of domestically-produced biofuels playing a key role.
Other benefits from domestically produced biofuels include: 1) enhanced energy security (i.e., the United States is less vulnerable to disruptions in global petroleum markets); 2) lower prices at the pump for all fuels (i.e., substituting biofuels for petroleum-based fuels reduces overall global demand for petroleum, which, in turn, places downward pressure on the price of petroleum); 3) cleaner air; and 4) reduced greenhouse gas emissions.