U.S. dependence on imported oil fell below 50 percent in 2010 for the first time in more than a decade, thanks in part to the weak economy and more fuel efficient vehicles, the Energy Department said on Wednesday.
The department's Energy Information Administration said it expected the moderating trend in U.S. oil-import dependency to continue through the next decade due to improvements in energy efficiency and even higher fuel economy standards.
The new data could undercut efforts by Republican lawmakers to expand offshore oil drilling to reduce oil imports, and support the position of the Obama administration and environmental groups that higher mileage requirements for cars and trucks would help cut dependence on foreign oil.
Imports of crude and petroleum products accounted for 49.3 percent of U.S. oil demand last year, down from the recent high of 60.3 percent in 2005. It also marked the first time since 1997 that America's foreign oil addiction fell under the 50 percent threshold.
Oh, and BTW? Higher fuel standards enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support, even here in the heart of auto country.
In surveys we conducted over the last year, Americans express a clear preference for much higher fuel economy standards. Just last month, for Ceres, we explored attitudes in the heart of the industrial Midwest and the headquarters of America’s auto industry — Ohio and Michigan — where we found overwhelming support for at least a 60 miles per gallon standard.
Voters in the Ceres polls express 4-to-1 support for a specific proposal with two elements: stronger pollution controls on automobiles and a 60 mpg fuel economy standard by 2025 for new cars, pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs. Over three-quarters in both states favor this proposal, while less than 1 in 5 oppose it.
Support is broad, deep and bipartisan, extending to those in affected industries. Some 9 in 10 Democrats join three-quarters of independents and two-thirds of Republicans in supporting this proposal.
Many assume that those who derive their living from the auto industry are as skittish about these standards as those who run car companies. Wrong. Those who live in households dependent on the automobile industry respond much like everyone else, with over two-thirds favoring the 60 mpg standard. In Michigan, 74 percent of voters in UAW households favor the strict standards, while just 26 percent oppose them.
It will be interesting to see if oil imports start to creep up again as the economy slowly picks up steam, or if our efforts at efficiency really will hold the line.