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Misinformation: The U.S. is a net oil exporter

An oil well in Sidney, Mont., where the

An oil well in Sidney, Mont., where the region is experiencing a boom spurred by companies seeking to extract oil from the massive Bakken formation beneath western North Dakota and eastern Montana. More than 16 million barrels of crude are now being pumped every month from the massive Bakken oil field beneath eastern Montana (Feb. 28, 2012). Credit: AP


Today’s misinformation is from two letters submitted within a few days of each other. This always makes us think that people have been listening to the same misinformed talking heads.

The first letter reads, “I don’t have the answers as to why we are exporting oil to other countries. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to keep it here and stop importing more expensive foreign oil?”

And here’s the second letter: “We already produce more than enough oil here in the United States, but for some unexplained reason, we export the majority of oil to other places and then are forced to import the oil we need at bloated prices per barrel. If we reduced the oil we export and kept it here for our own use, we could save our own citizens quite a few dollars. Whoever is in charge of our oil reserves should be fired.”

Apparently, the culprit spreading this particular piece of misinformation was the U.S. Department of Energy. The department reported that in 2011, the United States exported more gasoline, diesel and other fuels than it imported for the first time since 1949.

Now, don’t feel bad. I was taken in by this story too. But there’s more below the surface here – pardon the pun. The reality is that the United States imports the crude oil from elsewhere, refines it here, and then exports it as gasoline and diesel. That’s hardly the same thing as producing it from within our national borders.

Here are more resources, if you want to dig into this further:

From “Why the US is Not About to Become an Oil Exporter”

From “America Is Still A Giant Oil Importer”

From “Oil Companies Big Winners as U.S. Becomes Net Exporter of Fuel”

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Ever submitted a letter to the editor and wondered why it wasn’t published? Sometimes – not always – it’s because Newsday’s research revealed that the information in the letter wasn’t quite accurate. So, the letter disappears into a void, which may leave writers wondering what happened. That's why we're introducing this regular feature, “Misinformation,” on our blog -- to try to set the record straight about a wrong fact or impression.



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