February 29, 2012
By Jim Landers
WASHINGTON — Texas exports of fuels, computers and other goods soared by $43 billion last year to reach $249.9 billion, far ahead of exports from any other state, the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration announced Thursday.
California, the second-largest exporter, sold $159.4 billion worth of goods abroad last year.
“Literally about one-sixth of the country’s exports now come from Texas. This is awesome,” said Mike Peng, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Jindal School of Management. “The regional advantage of manufacturing and producing in Texas is now stronger than other states.”
Diesel and other refined petroleum products accounted for much of the surge. With U.S. oil consumption down, Texas petroleum exports were up $18.2 billion last year, reaching $51.3 billion.
For several years, U.S. refiners have faced sluggish demand and a loss of market share to bio-fuels such as corn-based ethanol. Meanwhile, the demand for diesel has gone up worldwide much faster than the demand for other oil products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
U.S. refineries, particularly on the Gulf Coast, have shifted some of their output from gasoline to diesel to take advantage of higher overseas prices. The Energy Information Administration reports that more than 20 percent of diesel produced at U.S. refineries is now exported, along with more than 4 percent of gasoline.
Oil industry representatives say these exports are not behind current gasoline price increases.
“By far the single greatest factor in the price at the pump is the price of crude oil,” said Kyle Isakower, the American Petroleum Institute’s vice president of regulatory and economic policy.
“The small amount of … on-road motor fuels that we have exported over the last couple of years developed because United States demand is dropping. Those exports have virtually no effect on the price at the pump because they cannot modify the price of crude as traded on the world market.”
Natural gas advantage
Chemicals, another energy-related category of exported Texas goods, — shot up last year, to $46.6 billion from $38.8 billion in 2010. Cheap natural gas, a primary feedstock of petrochemicals, has given Texas producers a competitive advantage over worldwide rivals who still use oil-based raw materials.
“Most people don’t realize that we export a lot of petrochemicals and refined products,” said economist Bernard Weinstein of Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business....