Where the U.S. gets its oil from

Written by: Randy Olson

Primary Source: Randal S. Olson

Despite the fact that late-year gas prices have risen to the second-highest in recent memory, a new report from the UT Energy Poll shows that most Americans have little clue where their gas even comes from. According to the poll, 3 out of 4 Americans think that the U.S. imports the majority of its oil from somewhere in the Middle East.

us-oil-imports-poll

Yet when all of the U.S.’s oil imports are stacked up, oil from the Middle East comprises only a quarter of U.S. oil imports. In fact, the majority of the U.S.’s imported oil comes from countries in North and South America.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

If we look up the top 10 exporters of oil to the U.S., we might be surprised to find that our friendly neighbors to the north are the ones working the hardest to keep our gas tanks full. (Or at least, 87% of us will be surprised by this!)

You’re reading the chart right: the U.S. imported 1.14 billion barrels of oil from Canada in 2013 alone. That’s roughly 21.7 billion gallons of gas!

us-oil-imports-top-10

If you’re a little more in-the-know than most people on this topic, you’ll notice that the imports listed above don’t even come close to matching the U.S.’s insatiable appetite for oil. And that’s where the most important fact in this article comes in: 60% of the oil that Americans use is produced right here in the U.S.

That’s right: over half of our oil shouldn’t be affected by foreign affairs, much less foreign affairs in the Middle East. Keep this in mind the next time someone tells you gas prices are rising because of conflicts in the Middle East.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

In fact, only during George W. Bush’s presidency did we see oil imports rise above our own oil production. Once President Obama took office, the trend was reversed within a couple years and we’re now on a stable path toward (mostly) oil independence.

petro_other_liquids_line

It’s time we put an end to this myth that the U.S. gets most of its oil from the Middle East.

If you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000, I’m calling on you to share these facts with your family and friends today so they will be better informed when voting on energy policies in the future.

Summary

  • 3/4 of Americans don’t know where the U.S. gets its oil from
  • The U.S. only imports 40% of the oil it uses; the other 60% is produced in the U.S.
  • Half of the oil the U.S. imports is from North and South America; only 28% of imported oil comes from the Middle East
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Randy Olson is a Computer Science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University in Dr. Chris Adami’s lab specializing in artificial intelligence, artificial life, and evolutionary computation. He runs a research blog where he writes about Python, scientific computing, evolution, and AI. Randy is an ardent advocate of open science and regularly travels the U.S. to teach researchers scientific computing skills at Software Carpentry workshops.