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crude goes to Europe and to Asia. “Shutting down the strait ... is the last bullet that Iran has and therefore we have to express some doubt that they would do this and at the same time lose their sup- port from China and Russia,” said analyst Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzer- land. Iran has adopted an aggressive military

Thursday, January 5, 2012 ■ Page 11

posture in recent months in response to increasing threats from the U.S. and Israel of possible military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian navy’s exercises, which began on Dec. 24, involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. A se- nior Iranian commander said Dec. 28 that the country’s navy is also planning to test advanced missiles and “smart” torpedoes during the maneuvers. The war games cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea and could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels in the area. The moderate news website,, says the show of strength is intended to send a message to the West that Iran is capable of sealing off the wa- terway. “The war games ... are a warning to


Top U.S. exports, 2011 (Through October)

1. Fuel: $73.4 billion; 2. Aircraft: $70.8 billion; 3. Motor vehicles: $39.6 billion; 4. Vacuum Tubes: $37.1 billion; 5. Telecomm Equipment: $33.2 billion.

— Associated Press MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune

The Mandan Tesoro Refi nery, which began operating north of Mandan in 1954, is shown in this May 2010 fi le photo. For the fi rst time, the top export of the United States, the world’s biggest gas guzzler, is — wait for it — fuel.

Getting rid of our gas

the West that should oil and central bank sanctions be stepped up, (Iran) is able to cut the lifeblood of the West and Arabs,” it said, adding that the West “should regard the maneuvers as a direct message.” El-Tablawy reported from Cairo. As-

In a fi rst, gas and other fuels are top US export

sociated Press writers Adam Schreck in Dubai, Julie Pace in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Abdullah Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed.

Iran backs off threat to

close Strait of Hormuz TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Talk

of blocking the strategic oil route through the Strait of Hormuz is a discussion of the past, a com- mander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Dec. 31 in comments that seemed to back away from an earlier threat. But he said Iran had other, unspecifi ed strategies for re- acting to any Western aggression. “Discourse about closing the

By CHRIS KAHN AP Energy Writer

time, the top export of the United States, the world’s biggest gas guzzler, is — wait for it — fuel. Measured in dollars, the nation is on

pace this year to ship more gasoline, die- sel, and jet fuel than any other single ex- port, according to U.S. Census data go- ing back to 1990. It will also be the fi rst year in more than 60 that America has been a net exporter of these fuels. Just how big of a shift is this? A de-

NEW YORK (AP) — For the fi rst Still, the U.S. is nowhere close to en-

ergy independence. America is still the world’s largest importer of crude oil. From January to October, the country imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil worth roughly $280 billion. Fuel exports, worth an estimated $88 billion in 2011, have surged for two rea- sons:

which gasoline and other refi ned prod- ucts are made, is a lot more expensive. Oil prices averaged $95 a barrel in 2011, while gasoline averaged $3.52 a gallon — a record. A decade ago oil averaged $26 a barrel, while gasoline averaged $1.44 a gallon.

Strait of Hormuz belongs to fi ve years ago. Today’s debate in the Islamic Republic of Iran contains new layers and the time has not come to raise it,” Gen. Masoud Jazayeri said in comments posted Dec. 31 on the Guard’s website,

cade ago, fuel wasn’t even among the top 25 exports. And for the last fi ve years, America’s top export was aircraft. The trend is signifi cant because for decades the U.S. has relied on huge im- ports of fuel from Europe in order to meet demand. It only reinforced the im- age of America as an energy hog. And up until a few years ago, whenever gasoline prices climbed, there were complaints in Congress that U.S. refi ners were not growing quickly enough to satisfy do- mestic demand; that controversy would appear to be over.

ing. The U.S. is using less fuel because of a weak economy and more effi cient cars and trucks. That allows refi ners to sell more fuel to rapidly growing economies in Latin America, for example. In 2011, U.S. refi ners exported 117 million gal- lons per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products, up from 40 million gallons per day a decade ear- lier.

side to America’s growing role as a fuel exporter. Experts say the trend helps explain why U.S. motorists are paying more for gasoline. The more fuel that’s sent overseas, the less of a supply cush- ion there is at home. Gasoline supplies are being exported to the highest bidder, says Tom Kloza,

There’s at least one domestic down- — The volume of fuel exports is ris- — Crude oil, the raw material from

chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. “It’s a world market,” he says. Refi ning companies won’t say how

much they make by selling fuel overseas. But analysts say those sales are likely generating higher profi ts per gallon than they would have generated in the U.S. Otherwise, they wouldn’t occur. The value of U.S. fuel exports has

grown steadily over the past decade, coinciding with rising oil prices and in- creased demand around the globe. Developing countries in Latin Ameri-

America’s refi ners have been eager to export

mand in the U.S. has been falling every year since 2007. It dropped by another 2.5 percent in 2011. With the economy struggling, motorists cut back. Also, cars and trucks have become more fuel-effi - cient and the government mandates the use of more corn-based ethanol fuel. The last time the U.S. was a net ex-

to these markets: gasoline de-

ca and Asia have been burning more gas- oline and diesel as their people buy more cars and build more roads and factories. Europe also has been buying more U.S. fuel to make up for its lack of refi neries. And there’s a simple reason why

porter of fuels was 1949, when Harry Truman was president. That year, the U.S. exported 86 million barrels and im- ported 82 million barrels. In the fi rst ten months of 2011, the nation exported 848 million barrels (worth $73.4 billion) and imported 750 million barrels.

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