Make us your home page
Instagram | Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact: Hillary Clinton's claim that U.S. is energy independent goes too far

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Frontline Outreach and Youth Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016.


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Frontline Outreach and Youth Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016.

The statement

"We are now, for the first time ever, energy independent."

Hillary Clinton, in the second presidential debate

The ruling

If the United States used only foreign energy sources, it would clearly be energy dependent. And if it used only domestic energy sources, it would clearly be energy independent. On this spectrum, the United States is definitely closer to independence than dependence, and getting closer every year. But it's not at full energy independence yet.

The United States still consumes about 11 percent more energy than it produces, so it has to import from other nations to meet that need.

In 2015, the United States produced 87.9 quadrillion BTUs of energy and used 97.3 quadrillion BTUs, according to the Energy Information Administration, an office of the federal government. The United States imported about 11 quadrillion more BTUs of energy than it exported in 2015.

This means "the U.S. is not energy independent," said Kenneth Medlock, senior director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University.

That said, imports have been trending down significantly since the mid 2000s. The EIA has projected that the United States will switch from a net importer of energy to a net exporter sometime between 2020 and 2030.

"The U.S. is not currently energy independent and, while it is moving toward energy independence, it is not expected to be so for about a decade," said Paul Holtberg, leader of the EIA's Analysis Integration Team.

This shift is happening because of changes in both supply and demand. Domestic natural gas and oil production has skyrocketed since hydraulic fracturing, the extraction method known as fracking, came into regular use in the late 2000s. At the same time, Americans are using less energy as a result of growing efficiency.

Going by net imports versus net exports, the United States is currently a larger net importer than it was from the 1950s (as far back as the EIA data goes) through the 1970s, and again in the mid 1980s. So current net import levels are not unprecedented.

When people think of energy independence, they often think of oil because it's the one source of energy that the United States has historically imported from potentially unstable areas. While the United States is essentially self-sufficient as it pertains to coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources, it still imports about 24 percent of its oil needs, even with the increase in fracking.

Even so, Marilyn Brown, a professor of sustainable systems at Georgia Institute of Technology, told PolitiFact that she thinks the United States is energy independent because it could meet its oil needs from a friendly country, like Mexico or Canada, if the oil market in one of its other top supplier countries became unstable.

North America as a whole is arguably energy independent, in that it produces all the energy it consumes on a net basis, several experts pointed out.

Clinton's statement is not accurate and we rate it False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Hillary Clinton's claim that U.S. is energy independent goes too far 10/14/16 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2016 5:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.