Do You Know Where Your Oil Comes From?

If you drive a car that runs on gas or diesel, you’ve probably thought about where the crude oil that made your fuel came from, especially when you’re standing at the fueling station watching the numbers whirl by and cringing at the thought of your next credit card bill. According to the news and speeches made by politicians, the Middle East is the major source of US oil imports, right? That’s why energy independence is so important, and why the Middle East is such a critical asset, because instability in the region could threaten oil prices and cause shortages.

However, our primary source of oil imports is actually found closer to home. A lot closer, it turns out; Canada and Mexico both have very large oil reserves and they sell frequently to the US. Other sources include Africa and South America. Major sources in October 2012 included Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Venezuela, along with, yes, Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Persian Gulf represented just one fifth of oil imports overall, which, while significant, isn’t quite the overwhelming juggernaut it’s often made out to be. What’s more, the source of your oil actually varies by location within the United States.

If you live in the Midwest or Mountain West, your vehicles run on Canadian oil; this makes sense, given how easy it is to move oil and other petroleum products across the border. The South relies heavily on Mexican oil, while the East Coast uses sources from Africa; drivers in the West, on the other hand, use a lot of Saudi Arabian and Iraqi oil, fitting a more traditional profile in terms of the regions it counts on to deliver enough crude to keep its vehicles running. Certainly changes your perspective on the source of oil used in the US, doesn’t it?

What it shouldn’t change, though, is your perspective on fossil fuels, which still contribute to pollution, global warming and other problems. While it may be possible for North America to achieve energy independence, relying solely on its own oil deposits and reserves for fuel, that shouldn’t be a long-term goal to the exclusion of alternatives to fossil fuel.

All that Canadian oil, for example?

95 percent of it is locked up in infamous tar sands, which require extensive processing to access the valuable petroleum inside. Many of these deposits are also located in remote, harsh regions, which make them hard to access in a way that would be commercially viable, and even industry groups admit that there might be some “environmental problems” associated with extracting, processing and transporting Canadian oil.

It’s important to get an accurate look at where petroleum products used in the US are coming from, in order to form a more complete source of understanding, but that shouldn’t distract us from the bigger picture. While the popular myth that the US is reliant on Middle Eastern oil isn’t quite true, it is true that the nation has a serious problem with fossil fuels, and that this needs to change. Shifts in US energy policy are critical to encourage the nation to turn away from oil, and towards something more sustainable in the long term, and finding a cure to the oil addiction may be a complex process.


Related articles:

The Foul Legacy of the Tar Sands: Lakes Turned Into Cancer Sites

Electric Vehicles Can Help Reduce US Oil Dependence

Top 10 US Species Threatened By Fossil Fuels


Photo credit: Richard Masoner


Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H3 years ago

North Sea

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer3 years ago

Take a good look at pictures of northern Alberta and the Blue Mountains that have been stripped of their tops by corporate greed, they are scenes that will become all the more prevalant here in the states if these corporations are not stopped. We must all raise our voices in unisom with the First Nations and any other peoples who are now fighting the good fight.

Do not let them tell you that we need the Keystone XL or any other proposed Tars sands pipelines for the added crude oil to lower our gas prices and our dependence on foriegn oil. These pielines are not carrying crude oil! Texas, and federal statutory codes define crude oil as "liquid hydrocarbons extracted from the earth at atmospheric temperatures”. Simple enough, DilBit is not crude oil. TransCanada’s spokesman, Shawn Howard, said, “...oil is oil”. But that's hardly the case. The massive exploitation of Alberta tar sands (MEATS) and Keystone XL advocates cultivate public misconception of DilBit being “crude oil”. A dangerous ruse spanning pipeline safety regulations to pipeline technology and leak detection...back to public awareness. Pawning off DilBit as crude oil is TransCanada’s public-relations Job Number One—except when it comes to the IRS.

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer3 years ago

As more oil corporations move into tar sands extracation, either in Canada or now in the U.S., or open their present for exploitation on a more massive scale it all has to be largest assault on our environment that sacrifices the health of the multitudes for the greed of the few. They do this damage with the impunity of the robber barons of yore, a crime that goes unanswered because of how much these neo-robber barons and their bought and paid for lackeys at every political level have devastated environmental laws meant to protect the many from the excesses of the few. This crime against humanity goes far beyond taking an area the size of England consisting of pristine boreal forests and turning that into an open wound oozing tar and other carcinogens that is easily seen from space, completely ruining some of the last untamed forests of the world an area that makes up 35% of Canada's wetlands. And it is more than releasing tones of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at a time when we are trying toi reduce those gases. This is the epitome of corporate greed and depravity that shows absolutely no regard for any other life on Earth. This has become more prevalent here in the states after 30 years of attacks on governmental protections by ALEC, the Koch brothers and their paid political lackeys in DC and at the state level. Take a good look at pictures of northern Alberta and the Blue Mountains that have been stripped of their tops by corporate greed, they are scenes that wil

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer3 years ago

America could drill in every available area and it still would not affect the price of gas. Once the oil is pumped out of the ground it no longer belongs to America but belongs to the oil company drilling the site to be sold on the global market. Our Refineries are running at 100% capacity with more than half the production being exported overseas. Demand for gas is down because of the Chevy Volt and all the other hybrid/electric vehicles that the Obama administration has helped come to fruition. Law of Supply and Demand, the basis for Capitalism, is being manipulated by speculators in the Gas and Oil commodities market. The largest speculating firm is none other than Koch Industries. They have to push the price of gas up because they need the money to buy our elections…

Being in the Oil Boom-let Sweeps U.S. as Exports and Production rise. Looking at your heating bills or gas prices, you may find it surprising that the United States is enjoying a mini oil boom. It's producing more crude oil and, for the first time in decades, has become a net exporter of petroleum products such as jet fuel, heating oil and gasoline.

The U.S. exported more oil-based fuels than it imported in the first nine months of this year, making it likely that 2011 will be the first time since 1949 that the nation is a net exporter of such goods, primarily diesel.

Martin Thomas
Martin Thomas3 years ago

Ask Al Gore where oil comes from! What a hypocrite!

E. J.
Past Member 3 years ago

I'm from Alberta, not too far from the deleterious oil sands. From international wars to ruinous and far reaching effects on habitat and environmental destruction in Canada oil needs to go for future generations. I fear the future my daughter faces.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K3 years ago

American oil comes from countries that have been shock and awed by their military into submitting to enslavement and the oil is their price for the freedom to be able to stay alive but only just.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K3 years ago

Most people do not know where our oil comes from, in fact the majority would not realise it comes from the creator for the use by everyone , not to be exploited by a self appointed few who use it to exploit the rest of us.

John Why
John Why3 years ago

We could power everything on Browns Gas (seperated water), it would replace Oil Gas and Coal. It can power anything from an electricity plant to the family car. Salt water from the ocean, urine will also suffice. When it is burned it goes back to water for reuse. I have seen it used to cut steel and power a lawnmower also some cars.
If we used Browns Gas there would however be no money in it, thus it is not used we already have the technology to use it it has been used. Thus we polute the earth for money. Greed indeed.

Mit Wes
Mit Wes3 years ago

Y'all. I think it's a fallacy that peak oil will mean the end of plastics, transport, chemicals, drugs and fertilizers. This is because peak oil will not mean peak energy. Solar, wind, nuclear (yes nuclear), biofuels and even fusion (yes there has been a couple of exciting developments) will more than just fill in the oil gap. With these sources of energy, it;s only a matter of scaling up well known chemical reactions to convert water and CO2 into many kinds of hydrocarbons and, with nitrogen gas, fertilizers. Those hydrocarbons will then be used to make the materials that we are all familiar with.