Sunday, December 17, 2017

Obama administration report touts decline in oil imports, increase in domestic production

WASHINGTON — Against the backdrop of rising gasoline prices during an election year, a new Obama administration report cites "significant progress" in reducing foreign oil imports and increasing domestic oil and gas production.

The report by six federal agencies was released early Monday on the first anniversary of a speech by President Barack Obama in which he pledged to reduce American dependence on foreign oil imports by one-third in about a decade.

According to the study, the United States reduced net imports of crude oil last year by 10 percent, or 1 million barrels a day. America now imports 45 percent of its petroleum, down from 57 percent in 2008, and is on track to meet Obama's long-term goal, the administration maintains.

Imports have fallen, in part, because the United States has increased domestic oil and gas production in recent years.

U.S. crude oil production increased by an estimated 120,000 barrels a day last year, compared with production in 2010, the report says. Current production, about 5.6 million barrels a day, is the highest since 2003.

America has been the world's largest producer of natural gas since 2009. Use of renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, is still relatively small but has doubled since 2008.

A new poll shows that mounting frustration with the president's handling of the economy — driven, in part, by a sense that he can influence gasoline prices — has eroded Obama's approval rating.

A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 46 percent of people surveyed approved of Obama's job performance, while 50 percent disapproved. That is a reversal of the president's ratings from last month, when his approval rating hit 50 percent for the first time in that survey in nearly a year. The drop coincides with a spike in gas prices and an increase in criticism from his Republican rivals on the issue, even as the economy has shown signs of growth.

Still, the report highlights improvements in the overall energy picture, citing initiatives such as the higher fuel efficiency of passenger cars, the jump in renewable energy output and the improved weatherization of 1 million homes.

But independent analysts attribute much of the fall in oil imports to slack U.S. demand in a still-anemic economy.

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