by Max Schulz



Manhattan Institute/Zogby Survey of Adults Question Frequencies

Manhattan Institute/Zogby Survey of Adults Question X-tabs





Many Americans are concerned that the United States is too dependent on imported oil, particularly from countries whose regimes—among them Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia—many Americans find unattractive. But how dependent are we? In particular, how dependent are we on oil from the Middle East, arguably the import region of most concern to the public?

Just 13 percent of respondents correctly identified Canada as our leading source of imported oil.

A majority of respondents believed that the largest share of U.S. oil imports arrives from the Middle East. Forty-nine percent of respondents said that Saudi Arabia exports the most oil to the U.S., while 15 percent chose Iraq. Just 13 percent of respondents correctly identified Canada as our leading source of imported oil.


According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA),[1] the statistical agency of the Department of Energy, the U.S. imported 58.2 percent of its petroleum (including crude oil) in 2007,[2] yet only 16.1 percent of all imports came from Persian Gulf countries.[3] This figure is noteworthy, considering the oft-repeated refrain that the U.S. is held hostage by Middle East oil.[4] Forty-nine percent of our imports came from the Western Hemisphere, while 21 percent was imported from African nations. In terms of importers’ shares of all U.S. imports of crude oil and petroleum products, America’s largest suppliers in 2007 were as follows:[5]

  1. Canada: 18.2 percent
  2. Mexico: 11.4 percent
  3. Saudi Arabia: 11 percent
  4. Venezuela: 10.1 percent
  5. Nigeria: 8.4 percent

In 2007, the U.S. consumed 20.68 million barrels per day (MMbd) of petroleum products (including crude oil), while net imports totaled just under 12.04 MMbd[6]. Note that this means that the U.S. itself is our own largest supplier of petroleum, producing almost 42 percent of the petroleum we consumed in 2007. Moreover, of the imported portion, Canada and Mexico accounted for 2.455 MMbd and 1.532 MMbd, respectively;[7] so, in 2007, over 61 percent of the petroleum consumed in the U.S. was either produced in the U.S. or imported from Canada or Mexico, our immediate neighbors. By contrast, imports from the Persian Gulf accounted for just 10.5 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption.[8]

Seventy percent of the oil consumed in 2007 was used for transportation.[9] (Ninety-six percent of our transportation needs are powered by petroleum.)[10] The industrial sector[11] consumed 24 percent, while the small remainder was used for home heating and electric power production.[12] Thus, our predominant use of oil is as a source for transportation fuel.

Crude Oil

Specifically with regard to crude oil (a subset of petroleum products), in 2007, the U.S. produced an average of 5,064,000 barrels per day and imported an average of 1,888,000 barrels per day from Canada.[13] Thus, the U.S. produces over 2.68 times as much crude oil as it receives from its top crude-oil importer. Of total U.S. crude-oil imports, the Persian Gulf supplied 21.1 percent, Canada supplied 18.8 percent, and Mexico supplied 14 percent.[14] Total U.S. crude-oil imports were lower in 2007 than in 2004, 2005, or 2006.[15]


Of course, many Americans understandably oppose sending large sums of money to countries neither democratic nor allied with the U.S. Our withdrawal from these markets, however, while perhaps a worthy goal in itself, would not stop those nations from realizing revenues from the sale of oil to other buyers, particularly fast-growing, petroleum-hungry India and China.

However, given our current level of oil consumption, the U.S. is not in a position to import oil solely from our friends and allies, particularly if we choose not to extract available domestic-oil resources. The size of our oil demand, the amount of domestic oil currently off-limits to extraction, and rising global demand combine to mean that the U.S. cannot limit imports to a select group of countries. Rather, we buy oil through a global marketplace. To reduce our reliance on imported oil from all sources, we will have to accelerate domestic-oil extraction, increase our use of electric vehicles and vehicles powered by nonpetroleum-based liquid fuels, and/or decrease our level of consumption.

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