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U.S. WILL IMPORT 70% OF OIL BY 2010, GROUP SAYS

If predictions prove correct, the United States will be importing almost 70 percent of the crude oil it consumes by the year 2010, says a trade group representing domestic oil and gas producers.

Falling U.S. production coupled with growing demand will give foreign oil a 59 percent share of domestic demand for oil by the year 2000, and just under 69 percent by 2010, according to a forecast released Thursday by the Independent Petroleum Association of America. This year the group estimates the United States will import 53 percent of consumption.But that news should send danger signals to Washington and prompt efforts to halt the trend, said George Alcorn, the IPAA's chairman.

"If the United States were forced to import 70 percent of its food, we would not allow that to happen," Alcorn said. "Energy is the same way. It's extremely important to our economy."

Alcorn said that although the import trend could not be reversed, government action allowing more access to potential oil reserves coupled with tax relief and other incentives could hold them at current levels, even as demand increased.