Fact Check: The United States Did NOT Go From The 'Highest' In Exports In Oil And Natural Gas To The 'Lowest' In One Week

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford
Fact Check: The United States Did NOT Go From The 'Highest' In Exports In Oil And Natural Gas To The 'Lowest' In One Week Bad Stats

Did the United States go from the "highest" in exports of oil and natural gas to the "lowest" in one week during January 2021? No, that's not true: Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) do not support that claim. During the week in question, exports of crude oil and petroleum products did not fall; they actually rose. It's not immediately clear what happened with exports of natural gas, as neither EIA nor the U.S. Department of Energy report weekly natural gas exports.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published on January 28, 2021. The post read:

Why isn't the media telling everyone how we went from the highest in exports in oil and natural gas to the lowest in one week

This is what the post looked like at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Feb 11 15:48:16 2021 UTC)

Perhaps the media isn't telling everyone because the post's claim is not true. The post did not provide any sourcing or statistics, only an unsubstantiated assertion.

This fact-check relies on data from EIA, which is a government agency that collects and disseminates independent energy information.

The Facebook post was dated January 28, 2021. That's important. One day prior, EIA published data for the week that ended January 22, 2021. Presumably then, the poster was comparing that week to the previous week that ended on January 15, 2021.

Between those two weeks, exports of crude oil and petroleum products did not fall. They actually rose, from roughly 7.65 million barrels per day to 8.2 million barrels per day. They rose, again, the following week that ended on January 29, 2021, to roughly 8.9 million barrels per day.

You can see the data here, and below is a chart that tracks exports over time.

There are at least two points worth mentioning about the chart. One, variations from week to week are common. Two, January 2021 levels are not close to being the "highest" or "lowest" in recent years.

Lead Stories reached out to Rob Merriam, director of energy statistics at EIA, to ask about the post's claim. Referencing a part of the above chart, he wrote in an email on February 10, 2021:

You can also see, both pre and post-Covid, how U.S. exports of petroleum can vary by a lot from week to week, so that's not unusual either, given the large vessels that get loaded and sent out which can make the volumes 'bumpy' from week to week, which is probably the key analytical point here frankly...not to make too much over a weekly blip.

Merriam said that neither EIA nor the Department of Energy report weekly natural gas exports, just monthly data that is lagged two months. You can see that data here.

In other words, it's not immediately clear what happened with natural gas exports during the week in question. But it is clear that exports of crude oil and petroleum products rose during the apparent relevant week. For that reason alone, the post is false.

It would also be false based on an alternative reading of its claim, which could be interpreted to mean that the United States went from being the "highest" in exports in oil and natural gas to the "lowest" in one week, relative to other counties. Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest oil exporter; the United States is nowhere near the lowest. In 2019, the U.S. was sixth among the world's oil exporting countries, at about half the dollar value of Saudi Arabia's oil exports.

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  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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