US crude imports by export nation, 2013 (EIA)

2013 EIA Stats Show Oil Price Stability Based On News, Not Supply

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US crude imports by export nation, 2013 (no oil prices) (EIA)Let’s start this analysis with the 2013 figures for the United States (right). In general, the oil export/import status looks better for the US than it has in a long time. Although the US is a major oil producer, it has been an even heavier oil consumer, importing millions of barrels per day of oil from more than 40 countries.

Last year, the US imported 7.7 million bpd of crude oil, according to the Energy Information Administration. This represents an improvement, about 23% less than in 2008, reflecting the early direction of President Obama’s policies and the success of an increased focus on natural gas by oil and gas companies.

For the American economy, even better news arrived in 2013 about petroleum and petroleum product. The US exported 3.6 million bpd of finished products like diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. Compared to 2.1 million bpd of product imports, this amount gives the US a 1.5 million bpd net balance.

Another way to look at this, though, is that the US is contributing that much more from sales to the greenhouse gases that propel climate change.

As you can see, Canada remains the biggest supplier of crude to the US. Purchases from the North made up a third of US crude oil imports (2.6 million bpd). This amount represents a 66% increase in imports from Canada over the past 10 years, according to Robert Rapier of

Of the 7.7 million bpd of total crude oil imports, 45% (3.5 million bpd) came from OPEC countries last year, with Saudi Arabia the largest OPEC supplier at 17% of the US total. A little over half of US imports come from these two nations.

EIA’s latest monthly Market Prices and Uncertainty Report, which supplements the Short-Term Energy Outlook, attributes the slight crude oil price increase from mid-June largely to tensions in Iraq, the sixth-largest of the top ten producers for the US. Rapier gives a brief explanation of why events in Iraq affect US oil prices, and those of every other nation:

“Over the past eight years, while Iraqi oil production was increasing by 1.3 million bpd, global oil consumption has increased by 6.9 million bpd. The increases in production in Iraq, along with the even greater production gains in the US, have struggled to keep up with rising demand. This has meant little spare capacity in the system, and with a globally traded commodity like crude oil, potential disruptions in supply make traders nervous and they bid prices higher.”

Even if we imported no oil from Iraq, he adds, with supply and demand in such tight balance, “oil that might be removed from the global supply tends to have a disproportionate impact on the price.” Canada’s record-high gasoline prices reflect this dichotomy.

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