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Published on January 15th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


Where Do We Get Our Oil?

January 15th, 2010 by  


We know that dozens of billions of US dollars go to imported oil every month (nearly $1 billion a day). We know that some of that must go to unstable, unsafe countries.

A new report by the Center for American Progress titled “Oil Dependence is a Dangerous Habit” shows exactly how much oil we are getting from several such countries, and the results leave you wondering how safe we actually are and how serious we are about fighting terrorism and hostile political regimes.

The ironic thing to me, is that the companies so gung-ho about being patriotic and so critical of almost all clean energy efforts are the same companies who are giving so much money (see the graphs below) to these unstable countries.

Ten of the countries who we import a lot of oil from are also on the State Department’s Travel Warning list: Algeria, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

Some leading importers may not be on the prestigious Travel Warning list, but show very anti-American foreign and energy policies as well.

Venezuela, one of our top five oil providers, is quite anti-American, if this Washington Post article is any indications of how the country thinks of us.

Demand Drives Price, Helps More Unstable & Unsafe Countries

Even if we do not trade with other very anti-American countries (e.g. Iran — legally, we cannot buy oil from them), our great oil dependence still drives the price of oil up everywhere and supports their business. Overall, the US is responsible for about a quarter of the worldwide oil demand: “In 2008 the United States consumed 23 percent of the world’s petroleum, 57 percent of which was imported. Yet the United States holds less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.” This supports Iran’s economy indirectly, but strongly as well.

As the Center for American Progress shows, we already rely a lot on unstable and unsafe countries, but as some of our allies who supply us with much of our oil begin to have a more and more limited ability to do so (e.g. Canada and Mexico), we will have to rely even more and more on the countries listed above, unless we switch to a new energy economy.

Oil Hurting Our Economy

Increasing oil imports is not good for our economy. It recently increased our trade deficit, worsening an already bad economic situation.

Because of our reliance on foreign oil, we send money to other countries rather than using it to invest in US technology and the US economy.

Bottom line: reliance on foreign oil is increasingly dangerous and economically costly.

Why We Have to Struggle So Hard to Get Clean Energy Legislation

Why so many Republicans and some Democrats have a hard time supporting clean energy legislation is clear — they care more about the profits of their or their supporters’ oil companies than the profits and security of the American people.

Look at who is making money on the imported oil:

In 2008 Chevron made a profit of $23.9 billion while nearly half of its imports—138 million barrels of oil—came from these countries. ExxonMobil made $45.2 billion while getting 43 percent of its oil—205.6 million barrels—from these countries. About one-third of BP’s imports—110.6 million barrels—were from these countries in 2008, when the company’s profits were $25.6 billion.

Approximately 25 percent of ConocoPhillips’ imports were from “dangerous or unstable” countries—116.7 million barrels—in 2008, contributing to its $52.7 billion profit. And Shell raked in $31.4 billion that year, also importing one-quarter of its oil—61.8 million barrels—from these countries. (Note: Shell includes Shell Chemical LP, Shell Chemical Yabucoa Inc, Shell US Trading Co, Shell Oil Co, and Shell Oil Co Deer Park).

It should be no secret by now, these companies are driving the lobbyists, media, and “citizens’ groups” who are against the clean energy and climate legislation that will help the US economy as a whole.

If only every American could connect a few dots: oil dependence -> economic loss; oil dependence -> support for unstable, anti-American countries.

There is nothing complicated about it. Oil dependence is one of the most unpatriotic things we can continue to support.

via Climate Progress/Center for American Progress

Related Stories:

  1. $25 Billion for Imported Oil — In One Month!
  2. Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions Trends — 1990, 2000, 2008
  3. Green Economy = More Jobs

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the CEO of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he offers no investment advice and does not recommend investing in Tesla or any other company.

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