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In several measurable ways, the U.S. has moved toward energy independence in recent years.
Experts say, though, that this hasn’t meant genuine energy independence. The U.S. still depends on international crude oil for key elements of its energy needs, making it sensitive to overseas developments in energy, trade and foreign policy.
Energy independence gains under former President Donald Trump’s leadership have strengthened under President Joe Biden.
Our ears were burning Sept. 27 after the second Republican presidential debate.
In a post-debate conversation, conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, squabbled over a comment by Mike Pence. The former vice president said that during his tenure, when Donald Trump was president, "We achieved energy independence. We became a net exporter of energy for the first time in 75 years."
Newsom claimed the trend is the opposite, saying, "We are more energy independent today" under President Joe Biden.
At one point, Newsom told Hannity, "This will be so much fun when this gets PolitiFacted tomorrow!"
Who are we to ignore a summons?
As it happens, we already had fact-checked a similar Pence claim on Aug. 13 and rated it Half True.
What Newsom’s, Hannity’s, and Pence’s claims all share is the mistaken belief that the U.S. is genuinely energy independent. Although the U.S. has moved toward energy independence in some ways, it still depends on international crude oil for key elements of its energy needs, making the country’s energy market sensitive to overseas developments in energy, trade and foreign policy.
However, Newsom does have a point that whatever degree of independence the U.S. gained under Trump has continued to grow under Biden’s leadership. In several key ways, the data shows energy independence has strengthened under Biden.
We contacted Newsom for comment but were referred to his campaign and did not receive a reply before our deadline.
Here’s a transcript, edited for clarity.
Hannity: "(Trump) made the country energy independent for the first time in 75 years."
Newsom: "We are more energy independent today. Look that up. It’s a fact."
Hannity: "That’s false. (President) Joe Biden has unilaterally disarmed."
Newsom: "I would encourage the people watching: Look this up: 5.94 quads. We are more energy independent today under Biden. Pence doesn’t know that. Your audience doesn’t know that. More domestic oil production than any time in history, we’re on pace for this year. That’s a fact. You guys keep making that up."
Hannity: "No we don’t make it up. We were energy independent and now we’re not."
Newsom: "We are energy independent. Net energy exporters. Sean, this will be so much fun when this gets PolitiFacted tomorrow!"
Hannity: "ANWR (the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, federal land where oil drilling is limited). Go there. Look at all the other restrictions."
Newsom: "5.94 quads. It’s the highest margin of net energy export in American history, under the Biden administration. By the way, I can’t wait for PolitiFact tomorrow. It’s going to be some fun."
This is more complicated than it sounds.
In recent years, the United States has provided for more of its own energy needs. Experts credit the growth in shale oil and shale gas production, increases in renewable energies such as solar and wind and improvements in efficiency.
This has led some politicians to describe the United States as having achieved "energy independence." But there is no single definition of what that means.
One statistic to consider is whether the U.S. exports more energy than it imports, said Hugh Daigle, a University of Texas at Austin associate professor of petroleum and geosystems engineering.
The Energy Information Administration, a federal office that tracks energy statistics, found that in 2019 — during Trump’s and Pence’s tenure — the United States became a net exporter of energy for the first time since 1952. "Energy" in this context includes all types, from heating oil to gasoline to sources used to generate electricity such as coal, natural gas and renewables.
Meanwhile, in 2020, the U.S. became a net exporter of petroleum for the first time since at least 1949.
A third statistic to look at is whether domestic production exceeds domestic consumption.
In 2019 and 2020, when Trump was president, the U.S. made more energy than it consumed.
By all three of these measures — net energy exports, net petroleum exports and greater domestic production than domestic consumption — the U.S. achieved a degree of energy independence during the Trump years. But because of the way the energy economies of the U.S. and the world work, experts say the United States has never managed true energy independence.
Consider the data for crude oil, which is used to manufacture gasoline.
For crude oil, imports outpaced exports in each of the four years Trump was president, and in Biden’s first two years in office. (Crude oil and petroleum are different; the U.S. is a net exporter of petroleum, a finished product, but a net importer of crude oil, a raw product used to make petroleum and petroleum products.)
Although the U.S. produces enough crude oil to satisfy its consumption, the U.S. cannot refine all of the crude oil it produces, experts say.
Many U.S. refineries cannot process the type of oil produced here, called "light" and "sweet." U.S. refineries are built to process heavier, less sweet crude (also called heavy, sour crude) from the Middle East and other overseas suppliers. That’s a holdover from past decades, when the U.S. was primarily importing its crude.
This mismatch keeps the U.S. from simply using its own crude production to serve domestic needs. Changing the mix of refineries to accommodate U.S.-produced crude oil would be expensive and would take years to complete.
This means the U.S. is exporting a lot of its domestically produced crude on the international market. This also means the U.S. is still importing a substantial amount of oil for domestic use.
"Gasoline refineries ship much of their product overseas, while we rely on imported gasoline to satisfy domestic demand," Daigle said. "As long as we are still relying on imports to satisfy domestic demand for oil, gas, and especially refined products, I would argue that we have not really achieved energy independence."
Saying the U.S. is "energy independent" ignores that the United States needs to import a lot of crude oil, meaning it continues to be subject to the whims of the international market and political concerns overseas, said Frank A. Verrastro, senior vice president of energy, national security and foreign policy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
For instance, in April 2020, Trump was in high-stakes negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over oil production, said Mark Finley, a fellow in energy and global oil at Rice University’s Center for Energy Studies.
"While the U.S. produces more energy than it consumes, it remains closely connected to — and dependent on — global developments," Finley said.
Hannity is incorrect to suggest that the situation was good under Trump but deteriorated under Biden.
In both 2021 and 2022, Biden’s first two years in office, the U.S. remained a net exporter of overall energy and a net exporter of petroleum. And energy production continued to outpace consumption in both of those years. For each of these three statistics, this favorable gap increased in scale between 2021 and 2022.
Newsom is also right that the U.S. is "on pace this year" to produce more oil domestically "than any time in history."
U.S crude oil production hit a record high under Trump, with 4.49 billion barrels in 2019. However, the trend line suggests that record could be broken once the books close on 2023.
During 2023’s first six months, the U.S. produced 2.29 billion barrels. If production continues at that pace for the rest of the year, the total would reach nearly 4.59 billion barrels, which would exceed the 2019 record.
And Newsom is also correct that the U.S. recently reached "the highest margin of net energy export in American history, under the Biden administration," by what he called "5.94 quads."
"Quads" refers to quadrillion British thermal units, which is the standard measurement for this type of statistic. One BTU is the energy released by burning a match.
In 2022, the U.S.’ energy exports exceeded its energy imports by 5.94 quadrillion British thermal units. In recent decades, there have been only four years during which U.S. exports exceeded imports — 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 — and the 5.94 quad difference in 2022 was the largest ever.
Newsom said, "We are more energy independent today" under Biden.
Gains in U.S. energy independence in recent years are measurable. But experts say it isn’t true energy independence, because the U.S. still depends on international crude oil for key elements of its energy needs.
Newsom is correct that Biden hasn’t squandered whatever degree of energy independence the U.S. gained under Trump. The data shows that several key metrics have grown even stronger under Biden.
The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.
PolitiFact Copy Chief Matthew Crowley contributed to this report.
Twitter clip of Gavin Newsom-Sean Hannity discussion, Sept. 27, 2023
PolitiFact, "Mike Pence oversells U.S. ‘energy independence’ under Donald Trump," Aug. 16, 2023
Energy Information Administration, U.S. energy facts explained, accessed Sept. 28. 2023
Energy Information Administration, Oil and petroleum products explained, accessed Sept. 28. 2023
Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, July 2023, accessed Sept. 28. 2023
Energy Information Administration, U.S. crude oil imports. accessed Sept. 28. 2023
Energy Information Administration, U.S.crude oil exports, accessed Sept. 28. 2023
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The Wall Street Journal, Trump, Putin, Saudi Crown prince scramble to fix oil markets, April 10, 2020
CNN Politics, Pence rolls out energy plan with goal to make US top energy producer by 2040, Aug. 8, 2023
Factcheck.org, Examining U.S. ‘energy independence’ claims, March 9, 2022
Nasdaq, America Produces Enough oil to meet Its needs, so why do we import crude?, March 8, 2022
Reuters, Fact check: Which factors determine U.S. ‘energy independence’?, March 23, 2022
USA Facts,, Is the U.S. energy independent?, Oct. 31, 2022
PolitiFact, Former Missouri governor missed the mark with Keystone XL statement, March 19, 2021
PolitiFact, Hillary Clinton claim that US is energy independent goes too far, Oct. 11, 2016
PolitiFact, Trump promise tracker, July 15, 2020
Email interview, Frank Verrastro, Frank A. Verrastro, senior vice president of energy, national security and foreign policy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Email interview, Hugh Daigle, Hugh Daigle, associate professor of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Aug. 9, 2023
Email interview, Mark Finley, fellow, energy and global oil at Rice University’s Center for Energy Studies, Aug. 9 2023
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