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United States oil politics describes how the need as well as the importation of crude oil influences the oil politics of the United States.


US dependence on foreign oil

Approximately 40% of the energy consumed annually by the United States is produced by burning oil.[1] As of 2008, more than two-thirds of this oil is imported. With approximately 5% of the world's population, the United States is responsible for approximately 25% of annual global oil consumption and according to 2008 estimates has a per-person daily consumption rate more than double that of the European Union, whose population is significantly greater.[2][3]

American dependence on oil imports has grown from 35% in 1973 (the first year reliable data were collected) to 60% by the end of 2006. The Energy Information Administration projects that U.S. oil imports will remain flat and consumption will grow, so net imports will decline to 54% of U.S. oil consumption by 2030.[4] According to the Department of Energy, the top oil exporters to the United States in May 2008 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria (in order from most exports to least).[5]

Diplomatic relations



Ex-CIA director James Woolsey and U.S. Senator Richard Lugar wrote:

Energy is vital to a country's security and material well-being. A state unable to provide its people with adequate energy supplies or desiring added leverage over other people often resorts to force. Consider Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, driven by his desire to control more of the world's oil reserves, and the international response to this threat. The underlying goal of the U.N. force, which included 500,000 American troops, was to ensure continued and unfettered access to petroleum.

Saudi Arabia

As of 2005, Saudi Arabia has 25% of the worlds proven oil reserves and has the worlds fourth-largest natural gas reserves.[6] Approximately 13% of U.S. oil is imported from Saudi Arabia.

Former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, said of Saudi Arabia,

One of the major things the Saudis have historically done, in part out of friendship with the United States, is to insist that oil continues to be priced in dollars. Therefore, the US Treasury can print money and buy oil, which is an advantage no other country has. With the emergence of other currencies and with strains in the relationship, I wonder whether there will not again be, as there have been in the past, people in Saudi Arabia who raise the question of why they should be so kind to the United States."[7][8]

Former Soviet Union

Richard Heinberg, a professor from Santa Rosa, California argues that a newly declassified CIA document shows that the U.S. used oil prices as leverage against the economy of the Soviet Union:

The Memorandum predicts an impending peak in Soviet oil production 'not later than the early 1980s' (the actual peak occurred in 1987 at 12.5 million barrels per day, following a preliminary peak in 1983 of 12.5 Mb/d). 'During the next decade,' the unnamed authors of the document conclude, 'the USSR may well find itself not only unable to supply oil to Eastern Europe and the West on the present scale, but also having to compete for OPEC oil for its own use.' The Memorandum predicts that the oil peak will have important economic impacts: 'When oil production stops growing, and perhaps even before, profound repercussions will be felt on the domestic economy of the USSR and on its international economic relations.'

...Soon after assuming office in 1981, the Reagan Administration abandoned the established policy of pursuing détente with the Soviet Union and instead instituted a massive arms buildup; it also fomented proxy wars in areas of Soviet influence, while denying the Soviets desperately needed oil equipment and technology. Then, in the mid-1980s, Washington persuaded Saudi Arabia to flood the world market with cheap oil. Throughout the last decade of its existence, the USSR pumped and sold its oil at the maximum possible rate in order to earn foreign exchange income with which to keep up in the arms race and prosecute its war in Afghanistan. Yet with markets awash with cheap Saudi oil, the Soviets were earning less even as they pumped more. Two years after their oil production peaked, the economy of the USSR crumbled and its government collapsed.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "Energy Information Administration (EIA) - Annual Energy Review". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  2. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook - European Union". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  3. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook - United States". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  4. ^ "How Dependent Is the United States on Foreign Oil? -". 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  5. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  6. ^ "Saudi Arabia Country Analysis Briefs". Energy Information Administration. 2005-08-02. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  7. ^ "The United States and Saudi Arabia: American Interests and Challenges to the Kingdom in 2002". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  8. ^ "When will we buy oil in euros? | Business | The Observer".,6903,900867,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  9. ^ Erwin, Jerry (2006-10-09). "The Challenges Facing the Intelligence Community Regarding Global Oil Depletion". Portland Peak Oil. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 


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