May 27, 2006

How Much Oil Does America Import?

Oil RigEver since I wrote Oil: America's Smack back in February, I've had a fairly steady stream of visitors asking the same question: how much oil does America import? I touched on this answer in my Smack post, but the question is worth looking into once more.

Every year, the United States pumps up some of its own oil (called "Field Production" according to the DoE) and imports the rest. Not surprisingly, American field production has been dropping over time. In the year 2000, American commercial field production made up 33.51% of its total supply of crude oil, while imports made up 52.21%. In 2005, those same percentages were 28.44% and 55.85%, respectively. And, of course, there's no reason to expect either of these trends not to continue going down and up, respectively, in the near future.

The United States has been importing oil since at least 1910 (according to DoE statistics), when a mere 557 thousand barrels of oil were brought into the country. Last year, the U.S. imported 3,670,403 thousand barrels of oil. Of those 3.67 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. imported from a total of 42 different countries. The top 5 importing countries were Canada (16.34%), Mexico (15.42%), Saudi Arabia (14.30%), Venezuela (12.24%), and Nigeria (10.54%), for a total of 68.84% of all American imports. In contrast, imports from countries 6 through 10 (Iraq, Angola, Ecuador, Algeria and the United Kingdom) make up only 16.84% of the total, with countries 11 through 42 making up the remaining 14.33%.

Looked at another way, only 21.69% of America's oil imports come from the Persian Gulf region. Per the DoE, the Persian Gulf includes Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates; however, Iran and Qatar export no oil to the United States. If we compare imports from OPEC countries vs. non-OPEC countries, we find that non-OPEC countries are now in the majority, 52.64% vs. 47.36%. And, with the exception of one year, 2001, non-OPEC countries have been in the ascendancy since 1994.

1. American field production will probably go below 25% of its total annual supply within the next five years.
2. In that same time frame, imports will probably be in the high 50s percentage (perhaps 58-59%).
3. America will continue to seek the majority of its oil from non-OPEC countries, such as Canada and Mexico, if only to avoid being as dependent on OPEC countries as they have been in the past. However, this will probably turn out to be a pipe dream in the long run unless Canadian oil reserve estimates turn out to be near the high end. (Estimates for Canada's proven oil reserves ranges from 4.7 billion barrels (World Oil) to 14.803 billion barrels (BP Statistical Review) to 178.792 billion barrels (Oil & Gas Journal). Obviously, this extremely wide range of guesses shows that no one truly knows how much oil Canada has.)
4. Persian Gulf oil, which has ranged between 19.81% and 28.56% of all U.S. imports since 1996, will probably continue to hover in the high teens-low 20s, despite President Bush's goal to cut American consumption of Middle Eastern oil by 75% by 2025, per the latest State of the Union address.

US Crude Oil Supply and Disposition (DoE)
US Crude Oil Imports by Country of Origin (DoE)
World Proved Reserves of Oil and Natural Gas, Most Recent Estimates

Update: I've written an updated post to this; please see Update: How Much Oil Does America Import.

Note: Despite the age of this article, it remains extremely popular, currently getting over 20% of all my hits on a daily basis. Since I wrote this post, I've written a number of other articles on oil. You might want to check out the following (so far to date; the most recent are at the top):

  • Update: How Much Oil Does America Import?
  • Crude Oil Prices, Dollars vs. Euros: Is There a Difference?
  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Proven Reserves, 2008, Top 10
  • U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2006
  • Antonio Rappa on Oil
  • American Theocracy
  • Juan Cole on Global Warming, Oil and American Politics/Militarism
  • World Oil Reserves
  • Oil: America's Smack

    And over at one of my other blogs:

  • Southeast Asian Petroleum Consumption Forecasts, 2007-2012

    I hope to have a number of other posts like the one above at the new blog, J2TM, in the near future.

    Anonymous said...

    Exactly...only 22% is imported from the Persian Gulf. I hate it when politicians keep referring to getting off "Middle Eastern" oil as if it's supplying 50+% for consumption.

    Anonymous said...

    My thoughts have been confirmed - with only 22% of oil coming from the Persian Gulf; I never accepted the fact that Bush went to war in Iraq for oil. What Bush went to war for Iraq was to ensure the Petro-Dollar remain on the US Dollar standard. Thereby, introducing terrorism to the region to all countries threatening to move there Petro-Currency to the Euro.

    JDsg said...


    There is some truth, I believe, that there's a fear in the US gov't that ME countries will switch to a Petro-Euro instead of the Petro-Dollar. However, also take a look at the listing of countries for proven oil reserves. Iraq is third in the world with reserves that will last for over 100 years at current production rates. With the #1 (Saudi Arabia) and #4 (Kuwait) countries compliantly producing oil for the U.S., is it any surprise that the US went to war with Iraq (#3) and is saber-rattling with Iran (#2)?

    Without question, Bush went to war in Iraq for oil.

    Anonymous said...

    yeah but take away that 22% and guess what America is screwed so yeah its important to get off ME oil.

    Anonymous said...

    look up CIA world fact book United States updated 19 June 2008

    Total oil imports into united states.....


    yea thats all i got to say

    The whole ""FEAR" campaign in making some people very very rich

    JDsg said...

    @ anonymous (7/12/2008): No, no, no, no, no. You're looking at the wrong number(s). The 8.2% is with respect to imported industrial supplies, meaning crude oil makes up 8.2% of the 32.9% of imported industrial supplies.

    Move up twelve rows to the line "Oil - imports" and you'll see the real number: "13.15 million bbl/day (2004)", which is actually lower than what it is today.

    Here's how the system works and we'll use those CIA numbers you brought up. The US pumps its own oil (obviously), which came to 8.322 million barrels per day (bpd). The US also imported 13.15 million bpd. That comes to a total supply of 21.472 million bpd. Now, consumption was 20.8 million bpd, which means that you have 672,000 bpd (roughly) left over as stock (oil that's come into the US but hasn't been sold yet). Of that total supply, then, 58.11% of all US crude oil is imported.

    Anonymous said...

    Prices of over $4 per gallon has made many of us to change to reduce demand for gas. we are driving less, using transit, dumping SUV's.

    Now gas prices are going down at the pump and averaging $3.72 nationwide. we are expecting the price to go down further and this is good news.

    We need to continue with the positive changes we have taken and also increase production internally, invest more in alternative sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear.

    This will reduce our dependence on oil from the middle east and also keep billions of dollars at home.

    Anonymous said...

    Importing 4 billion barrels of oil a year means we're EXPORTING $500-$600 billion CASH. I'd rather see that money stay in the U.S.

    Imagine the income taxes that would generate.

    Imagine the sales tax that would generate when oil rights owners spend that $500-600 billion on goods.

    Imagine the multiplier effect on that $500-600 billion.

    I'm sorry, but there is a heaven and hell. Hell is importing oil, heaven is being energy independent.

    Austen said...

    thanks for writing this it helped me in my report! thanks agian!

    Mind Investors- Educating and Achieving Together said...

    Thanks for all the information and the links. It was really resourceful. However I noticed that some of the data did not correlate with the data I have.

    JDsg said...

    @ War: You're welcome. Not knowing what data you're looking at, I'm not exactly sure why you're not looking at the same data. My first (and best) guess, though, is simply that you're looking at data that's much more current. Don't forget that this post is three years old already; I believe I was using 2005 data. Even my update post (linked in this post) has data that's over a year old now. There are some other possibilities, but I think the old data vs. new data possibility is most likely.