Americans tend to overestimate the amount of oil that we import from the Middle East. Most believe that’s where most of our oil comes from, which is far from the truth. In reality, we get less than 20% from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the rest of the Persian Gulf combined. Our top oil provider is Canada, in fact, and Mexico comes in third.
But we still do rely rather heavily on Saudi Arabia’s output, which is why this is front-page news: U.S. Reliance on Oil From Saudi Arabia Is Growing Again.
Imports have apparently spiked 20% this year, due largely to the sanctions on Iran. Here’s the NY Times:
The United States tightened sanctions that hampered Iran’s ability to sell crude, the lifeline of its troubled economy, and Saudi Arabia agreed to increase production to help guarantee that the price did not skyrocket. While prices have remained relatively stable, and Tehran’s treasury has been squeezed, the United States is left increasingly vulnerable to a region in turmoil.
Analysts expect the spike to be temporary, and the nature of our dependence on oil in the region shouldn’t be dramatically altered. But still. It does once again illustrate how our reliance on the region for oil, and how easy it’d be to run into a crisis.
As such, expect to hear pro-Keystone XL language deploy this development as a talking point—Canadian (and American) industry groups are already bluntly campaigning in favor of the tar sands pipeline on the grounds that it’d give the U.S. more oil from a “friendly neighbor.” They ran ads insinuating that if you’re against the tar sands, you’re for oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia’s. But do remember—that oil is headed for sail on the international market, and wouldn’t really have much of an impact on domestic supply.
That said, we should of course be looking much more vigorously for true alternatives: pursuing electric cars, cellulosic ethanol, biofuels, etc. This nasty oil dependence of ours has gone on long enough.