Import Baby, Import!

Posted by By at 4 April, at 12 : 06 PM Print

Energy challenges are a byproduct of an economy and a lifestyle dependent on petrochemical products.  In 1970, we imported 24% of the oil we consumed. The amount doubled by the time of Jimmy Carter’s epic energy speech. On April 18, 1977, two years before the core melt accident at Three Mile Island, Mr. Carter stated:

The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly. It’s a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it’s likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century. Many of the proposals will be unpopular. Some will cause you to put up with inconveniences and make sacrifices. The most noteworthy thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.

Today we import 70% of the oil we consume, but this is not the doomsday scenario that has been pumped into our psyche since the 1970s.

As a nation, we are gradually weaning ourselves off our reliance on OPEC. At the time of President Carter’s prescient prediction, we imported 6,193 monthly-thousand barrels per days of crude oil and petroleum products from OPEC. By January 2011, the number had fallen to 4,872 barrels.

Senator Richard Lugar correctly pointed out that “OPEC countries comprise approximately 40% of U.S. oil imports. Therefore, political and or economic instability in these countries could result in fluctuations in the amount of oil produced and available for sale to the United States and on the global market.”

Actually, we get about 45% of our oil from the Middle East and North Africa. However, 35% of OPEC’s share comes from our allies in Mideast – Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – which also benefit from American military presence and vast reserves.

OPEC isn’t what it used to be. It’s membership peaked at 14 and declined with the withdrawal of Gabon (1995) and Indonesia’s self-suspension (2009).

Contrary to public opinion and political hysteria, we get a majority of our oil from our neighbors. In fact,17% of the oil we import comes from Canada, 15% from Mexico and 19% from Latin America including Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and the Virgin Islands.

The wild card in this mix is South American OPEC members Ecuador and Venezuela which have rejected American diplomacy but require petro dollars to fuel their bold rhetoric.

It’s time we revisit and support former “banana republics” and embrace them as partners. Many Latin American nations have matured into strategic oil producing nations.

Total U.S. Imports of Petroleum:
Top 15 Countries

(Thousand Barrels per Day)

1) Canada
2) Mexico

3) Saudi Arabia*
4) Nigeria*
5) Venezuela*
6) Russia
7) Algeria*
8) Iraq*
9) Angola*
10) Brazil
11) United Kingdom
12) Columbia
13) Ecuador*
14) Virgin Islands
15) Kuwait*

* OPEC member.

Here’s the good news: America has a diversified and proximate addiction inventory. We supply 30% of our needs, and three of our five main suppliers are a baseball and hockey puck away. We import 70% of our foreign oil stock from five nations, but over 50% of that product is in our front and back yard.

Canada’s contribution increased from 517 monthly-thousand barrels per day in 1977 to 2,483 barrels per day in 2011.

Similarly, Mexico daily shipments increased over the same period from 179 to 1,366 monthly-thousand barrels per days of crude oil and petroleum products.

This is a real partnership for the Americas’ energy security.

Viva that revolution!

As a nation, we need to confront our hypocrisy and ask ourselves: Is it inherently bad to get our oil fix from any nation outside of our borders? Is importing oil from Canada and Latin America really more hazardous than buying solar panels produced in China, wind turbines manufactured in Spain or uranium mined in Namibia? Do free trade agreements end at the pumping station?

Yes, we need to adjust our consumption patterns, conserve more and streamline efficiencies. But we can also help ourselves by fueling economic prosperity in the Americas by importing petroleum from our neighbors who can grow a middle class capable of purchasing products made in America.

With over 50% of our oil imports coming from our neighbors, it’s time America woke up and smelled the octane brewing next door

* Source: U.S. Department of Energy Information Administration,

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This post was written by:
- who has written 352 posts for Rock The Capital
Eric J. Epstein is RocktheCapital‘s coordinator and a community advocate for good government for over 25 years. Mr. Epstein is also Chairman of the Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization founded in 1977; President of EFMR Monitoring Group, Inc., a non-profit economic development corporation established in 1977, and Chairman of the Stray Winds Area Neighbors (SWAN), a smart growth association organized in 2005. Mr. Epstein was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at PSU-Harrisburg (1992-1999) and co-authored the Dictionary of the Holocaust, which was released by Greenwood Press (1997) - Email Eric Epstein

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