HK, make sure to read the entire stories before concluding we actually are a net exporter of any energy resource. The US media has gotten incredibly lazy when reporting such matters, it's not just the Cushing price being used, they will report that export of gasoline has risen x percent, with no backstory on that at all to explain why that number has zero meaning, it's a just a function of how oil is produced and refined in this region, and of percentages of various liquids produced in each refinery.
We import roughly 50% of our petroleum, period. Before the 2008 price hikes, that number was around 60%.
When the media reports some increase in exports of refined product, that number is totally meaningless out of context. It could, for example, be Venezuelan owned Texas refineries 'exporting' refined Venezuelan crude back to Venezuela (because venezuela has no refineries to speak of, or few). Or sometimes the percentages of the refining cracks (the percentages of each substance created from the raw crude) lead to surpluses of one refinery product, like diesel, on a local level. For example, sometimes Europe exports gasoline to the US because they use a lot more diesel, and we export diesel to them, because we use a lot more gasoline, but that doesn't mean either has a surplus of petroleum, it's just hte physics / chemistry of how a specific refinery refines a specific type of crude, and what percentages of gas/diesel/heating oil/jet fuel/asphalt/bunker oil are created. Each refinery is usually tied to refining a specific range of crude, mostly sour crude now because the world is largely running out of sweet light crude, the stuff of dreams. What's left now, and being brought online, is the garbage crudes that were considered not worth pumping 40 years ago. And now we are scraping the bottom of the barrel even further, going into really poor quality sources like shale and tar sand oil, the latter of which can't be used without mixing it with real oil prior to refining. That's all that Venezuela has left at this point, for example. Shale oil is one of the bigger scams out there, as you'll learn over the next few years. The real story on that is interesting, just avoid reading the marketing spin designed to pump up the stocks until they can sell them off, right before the hype bubble pops, as it is doing now with shale gas.
It's downright comical in this election cycle to see right wing alleged free marketeers promise 2.50 a gallon gasoline, which could only happen if the US totally nationalized all oil production and refining and retailing. Why? Because oil is bought and sold on a global market, not a US market. US oil companies compete on the global market, they aren't charities. So the only way prices, which already reflect the cost of oil on a global level, could be dropped, would be if the country nationalized every drop of production, then forced that oil to be sold at x price to the consumer. You know, the way Saudi Arabia does, or Venezuela, where gas costs about 20 cents a gallon. That costs the Venezuelans billions by the way, but it's one way they buy off the population. What actually happens to any increase in production is that it might slightly drop the amount we import, assuming it gets sold here, which is not at all guaranteed, anyone can buy crude from US oil companies in most cases, it just happens that it's cheaper to sell it here since they don't need to ship it as far. But this level of total incoherence in political rhetoric is what happens when you pretend finite things are infinite.
There are some excellent books out there, as well as good web sites, that explain all this clearly.
But the basic numbers are very simple: we import 50% of our current petroleum consumption. So there's no scenario where the US will magically override geological reservoir depletion realities, that's must magical thinking , which is still being promoted by a non critical US media. Same goes for relatively tiny amounts of shale and tar sand oil, sure the total of THOSE might increase by 50%, while the overall US daily production continues its steady decline, which was only briefly interrupted by the one time giant Alaska discoveries. The new alaska fields promise no more than 6 months of global consumption at very best. The alleged mega find in deep sea waters off Brazil will come online slowly, and are unlikely to ever do much more than cover the decline in Brazilian oil production in other regions, along with expanded Brazilian consumption in the meantime. That's what the Export Land Model referred to above means, increased consumption in the producing nation leads to decreased export, that's happening almost everywhere now. The UK now imports oil, for example, the North Sea peaked years ago, and has declined massively, until the UK has to now import the stuff.
Much as with coal, we used the best and easiest to extract stuff first, now we are bringing online the stuff we have known about for decades but which was regarded as too low quality to use in the past. That's what it looks like when you have extracted too much of any given commodity. The last part left is harder to extract, lower quality, and less energy yield. That's why they left it in the ground in the first place. So when that's what we are using, you can totally ignore the happy talk from the mass media, and just note that we are in fact reduced to using that kind of junk. It's like needing a sleeping bag, walking into REI< but finding that all the good stuff is gone, leaving you with choices like Coleman. That's literally where we are. You can still get good oil, but it's getting much harder to find, and in places that are extremely dangerous, like Nigeria, which were considered not worth the risk before, for the simple reason they weren't. Things change at 120 a barrel however, people will take bigger chances for it, like risk Nigerian pirate attacks 100 miles offshore, or drilling in iceberg territory.
I find personally the notion of driving 150 miles round trip to do a day hike, and considering that to be a normal thing to do, to be the exact nature of the problem of US consumer expectations and blatant waste of this resource, that's something that will be viewed with stunned amazement in the future here by those with the luxury of studying their past. These types of behaviors would long ago have been altered had the government instituted forward looking gas taxes like they did in much the rest of the world. That is, 8 to 10 a gallon will make people treat the resource with a bit more respect, 5 seems to be a cut off point from what I saw in 2008, but it's still too low to make people stop doing things that are blatantly wasteful.
But to be very clear, it has long since stopped mattering if we save anything as individuals, when production levels reach a peak level, as they have now, all of it gets used, as it is being used. That means if you don't use it, someone else will. And we'll use it all, to the last drop we can extract at a profit, any chance of that not happening vaporized when China and India entered the car market. So that ball is already rolling down then hill at full speed, can't change it at this point, we won't be saving anything for our kids because we are a selfish culture, deep down. People might talk about not doing it, but all you have to do is see what real people are willing to stop doing to change this outcome, which is not much in any significant sense.
The countries that start bringing government controls into resource allocation are already here, China is doing that big time, Russia basically does it although they have that weird thug culture in the leadership that makes it hard to tell the thug private market from the thug public sector. But they do basically decide on the Federal level how to allocate these resources. The US is going to discover that the free market, so called, does an incredibly poor job allocating finite resources, it's only designed for basically unlimited resource exploitation. You can easily see this in the idiotic statement from economists, who actually believe that money produces oil or any other resource. But there's nothing to do now except adapt, my choice is to unplug from cars on an individual level, and to not be a big part of the problem, that's all I can do as an individual. That entails some sacrifice. Re backpacking, I am thinking about trying to organize car pools via rental cars to spots not accessible by public transit, I'll see if there's any interest here in such things over the coming year. Such things are not the same as using your own car, but it does start showing you how much we have come to expect in terms of ease and effort, vs what's actually needed. If you car pool, for example, you can't leave early, you can't bail because your sleep system was too light, or your shelter didn't shelter you, you have to stick it out. I'll be curious to see how many bpl members are willing to make even such a small sacrifice in consumption patterns.
My new idea has been developing over some time, forget about fake stuff like skin out, I'm going from 'front door out'. That means what the trip consumed from your front door and back, including fuel, tires, oil, all the stuff you actually consume on a backpacking trip. Gas weighs about 8 pounds a gallon, for example. Going with 4 people drops that out the door weight by 3/4. Not a bad weight reduction.