Real gross domestic product grows by 2.7 percent per year from 2009 to 2035 in the AEO2011 Reference case, and oil prices grow to about $125 per barrel (2009 dollars) in 2035. In this environment, net imports of energy meet a major, but declining, share of total U.S. energy demand in the Reference case. The need for energy imports is offset by the increased use of biofuels (much of which are produced domestically), demand reductions resulting from the adoption of new vehicle fuel economy standards, and rising energy prices. Rising fuel prices also spur domestic energy production across all fuels—particularly, natural gas from plentiful shale gas resources—and temper the growth of energy imports. The net import share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2035 is 17 percent, compared with 24 percent in 2009. (The share was 29 percent in 2007, but it dropped considerably during the 2008-2009 recession.)
Much of the projected decline in the net import share of energy supply is accounted for by liquids. Although U.S. consumption of liquid fuels continues to grow through 2035 in the Reference case, reliance on petroleum imports as a share of total liquids consumption decreases. Total U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035 in the Reference case. The import share, which reached 60 percent in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 51 percent in 2009, falls to 42 percent in 2035 (Figure 1).
U.S. consumption of liquid fuels—including fuels from petroleum-based sources and, increasingly, those derived from non-petroleum primary fuels such as biomass and natural gas—totals 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035 in the AEO2011 Reference case, an increase of 2.9 million barrels per day over the 2009 total (Figure 93). In all sectors except transportation, where consumption grows by about 2.5 million barrels per day, liquid fuel consumption remains at about the same level from 2009 to 2035. The transportation sector accounts for 73 percent of total liquid fuels consumption in 2035, up slightly from 71 percent in 2009.
Issues in Focus
The world oil price is represented in AEO2011 as the price of light, low-sulfur crude oil delivered at Cushing, Oklahoma. Projections of future supply and demand are made for "liquids." The term "liquids" refers to conventional petroleum liquids, such as conventional crude oil, natural gas plant liquids (NGPL), and refinery gain, in addition to unconventional liquids, such as biofuels, bitumen, coal-to-liquids (CTL), coal- and biomass-to-liquids (CBTL), gas-to-liquids (GTL), extra-heavy oils, and oil shale (derived from kerogen).