U.S. relies less on oil imports to meet fuel demand-Govt
* More fuel-efficient cars help reduce oil import need
* Higher U.S. oil and biofuels output cut foreign oil
* Moderating trend to continue through next decade-EIA
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, May 25 (Reuters) - U.S. dependence on imported oil fell below 50 percent in 2010 for the first time in more than a decade, thanks in part to the weak economy and more fuel efficient vehicles, the Energy Department said on Wednesday.
The department's Energy Information Administration said it expected the moderating trend in U.S. oil-import dependency to continue through the next decade due to improvements in energy efficiency and even higher fuel economy standards.
The new data could undercut efforts by Republican lawmakers to expand offshore oil drilling to reduce oil imports, and support the position of the Obama administration and environmental groups that higher mileage requirements for cars and trucks would help cut dependence on foreign oil.
Imports of crude and petroleum products accounted for 49.3 percent of U.S. oil demand last year, down from the recent high of 60.3 percent in 2005. It also marked the first time since 1997 that America's foreign oil addiction fell under the 50 percent threshold.
"This decline partly reflects the downturn in the underlying economy after the financial crisis of 2008," the EIA said in its weekly review of the oil market. Continued...