Where Does Our Oil Come from?

by Marlo Lewis on July 18, 2011

in Features

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently posted updated information on U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Some of the facts may surprise you.

More than half (51%) of all the oil we consume is produced in the USA.

Almost half (49%) of the oil we import comes from Western Hemisphere countries.

As a share of total U.S. oil imports, Canada’s contribution (25%) is more than double that of Saudi Arabia (12%). The top five foreign suppliers (again, as a share of total imports) were:

Canada (25%)
Saudi Arabia (12%)
Nigeria (11%)
Venezuela (10%)
Mexico (9%)

U.S. reliance on imported oil “declined dramatically since peaking in 2005,” EIA says. Indeed, as a share of total consumption, imports declined from more than 60% in 2005 to 49% in 2010 — an 18% drop in oil import reliance.

EIA says several factors account for the dramatic change:

There is no single explanation for the decline in U.S. oil import dependence since 2005. Rather, the trend results from a variety of factors. Chief among those is a significant contraction in consumption. U.S. oil product deliveries declined by 1.7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) to 19.1 bbl/d in 2010, from 20.8 million bbl/d in 2005. This decline partly reflects the downturn in the underlying economy after the financial crisis of 2008. Not surprisingly, demand has bounced back somewhat from a low of 18.8 million bbl/d in 2009, when the U.S. economy bottomed out. But the downward trend in consumption started two years before the 2008 crisis and reflects factors such as changes in efficiency and consumer behavior as well as patterns of economic growth.

Shifts in supply patterns, including increases in domestic biofuels production, NGL output and refinery gain, also played an important role in moderating import dependence. U.S. ethanol net inputs grew from 230,000 bbl/d in 2005 to 779,000 bbl/d in 2010, helping to displace traditional hydrocarbon fuels and so reducing petroleum import needs. Strong gains in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and the Bakken formation brought decades of contraction in domestic oil production to a sudden halt, and even led to a rebound. U.S. crude oil output increased by an estimated 334,000 bbl/d between 2005 and 2010, further eroding the need for imported crude oil.

It is reasonable to assume that oil import dependence would have declined even further had Team Obama not imposed a moratorium (May – November 2010) and then a permitorium (November 2010 – February 2011) on new offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

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