The Facts: Origins of U.S. Oil Imports

U.S. imports fluctuate month to month, but Canada is consistently one of our biggest sources of crude oil, along with Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Canada is also the single largest supplier of petroleum to the United States -- and the United States is by far Canada's best customer.

On the other hand, Persian Gulf countries account for a considerably smaller percentage of U.S. gross oil imports. Of the Middle Eastern oil exported to the States, a significant majority comes from Saudi Arabia. Rounding out the top six suppliers of crude and petroleum to the United States are Venezuela, Nigeria and Angola. The top 15 can be found here.

The 11-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries accounts for a little under half of U.S.-imported crude oil, about 40 percent of world oil production and an estimated two-thirds of proven oil reserves. Of OPEC members, only two are outside the Middle East and northern Africa: Venezuela and Indonesia. One of the world's biggest non-OPEC oil producers is Russia, but capacity problems -- moving oil from source to destination -- remain an obstacle.

OPEC revenues hit their highest levels in the late 1970s and early 1980s and have not hit such heights since. The price of per barrel still has a fair way to go before topping the record set in December 1979 -- close to $100, adjusted for inflation.

The bottom line is that the global oil market is all about supply and demand -- which is why, contrary to what some e-mail forwards (or blog comments) might imply, boycotts of certain oil companies would not work. Deliciously (or tediously, depending on your depth of interest) detailed reports of which companies purchased which oil imports from which countries are available here.

Looking for lots more assorted stats? has vast quantities of information.

By Emily Messner |  April 25, 2006; 9:43 PM ET  | Category:  Facts
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"The bottom line is that the global oil market is all about supply and demand.."

No no it should be "The bottom line is that the global oil market is all about ARTIFICIALLY MANIPULATED supply (OPEC) and INSATIABLY GREEDY demand (SUV producers).."

Posted by: E | April 26, 2006 08:15 AM

The global oil market is just that, a market, where oil is bought and sold. OPEC is doing what DeBeers did with diamonds, controlling the amount on the market and thus the price. Now OPEC only controls 40% of the oil market, but that's enough to set prices. So the oil market, like the diamond market, is not a free market.

The US, as a consumer, could work through legislation to use our muscle as the largest consumer to affect the market. We could legislate the amount of oil purchased from certain countries (notice we buy NO oil from Iran). We could also require US producers to sell their oil to the US and not put it on the world market. We could make a security pact with Canada that trades defense of Canada for better oil prices or at least an agreement for a larger quota of their oil. And I'm sure we do some of this but I wonder whether more could be done.

But that is not really the problem. We buy enough oil for our needs and there is enough oil being pumped for the world for at least 50-100 years. In other words using Reagan's words during his 1980 election campaign, "there is no energy crisis". The problem is refiners are doing what OPEC does, adjusting their refining capacity to effect the amount, and thus the price, of gasoline.

Consider this: Your company makes glass windows. Glass is made mostly from sand so your price for windows will be determined by the price of sand. But if the price of sand doubles will the price of your windows double? Unlikely because the cost of the sand is only part of the cost of making the window just as oil is only part of the cost of making gasoline. The other costs are the costs of shipping, running and maintain refineries, labor and other corporate costs.

According to the DOE, the cost of gasoline is determined by the following (in 2004):
12%: Marketing/distribution
18%: Refining
23%: Taxes
47%: Crude Oil

So if gasoline costs $2 when Crude oil was $40/barrel, the cost breakdown is:

12% of $2 = 24 cents for marketing/distribution
18% of $2 = 36 cents for refining
23% of $2 = 46 cents for taxes
47% of $2 = 94 cents for crude oil

When crude jumps to $70/barrel the 94 cents should become (70/40 * 94) cents or $1.64. Add that back with the other fixed costs and you get $2.70. But today we are seeing $3.

I'm sure other factors can be added such as contracts that kept prices down in the past, but someone needs to ask whether $3 is to high considering the new price of oil. Add to that the oil company profits and something stinks. Its the FTC's job to investigate. Considering how the Bush administration designed its energy policy behind closed doors with the oil companies and how both Bush/Cheney are oil/energy men, can anyone trust this administration to investigate gasoline prices? We can only hope for a whistleblower at the FTC. That is the only way the truth comes out of this administration.

Posted by: Sully | April 26, 2006 09:55 AM

I am not an apologist for the American oil companies.

However, one reason they make record profits is because they operate to consumers who are not cost prohibitive on consumption. Current gasoline prices do not make it unreasonable for Americans to drive enormous gas guzzling vehicles that they must fill 3 times a week.

We constantly complain about the ridiculous/unfair/inhumane/whine whine whine 3.00 we pay at the pump... while the Japanese suffer 4.50, Parisians dish out 5.50, in London they pay 5.80, and 6.50 in Amsterdam.

But Americans are plighted because of the high cost of oil, and thus someone should pay! Why not oil companies? Profits! Gouging! Unfair!

Well why the hell not Oil consumers? The reason it's sob sob unfair for a woman driving an SUV to pay 3.00 at the pump, all the while her European counterpart dishes out over twice that much, is because she really can't afford to drive her SUV anymore. So? There is no Constitutional right to large vehicles or bad consumer decisions. If she was in a scooter, or a hybrid, the costs would be managable.

It's not big oil's fault, it's American consumers fault. This entire dialogue reinforces my belief that America is a country of doomed pussies who will blame anyone and anything for its problems... besides Americans. Give me a break.

Gasoline tax, .50 cents effective immediately. I spend less on gas in 2006 than i did in 1998.

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 10:36 AM

Oil is not diamond. We can do w/o diamond on a daily basis. Without oil this society shuts down and we would be no better off than say Mexico.

A better question to ask is oil was at 15 a barrel 10 years ago. Now it's at 75. Has demand gone up five times since? And how much has supply gone up to meet this rising demand? What else is at work to contribute to the five fold rise in price.

The problem is in all the zeal for deregulation and globalization, the oil market has become like the stock market subject to speculative bidding and subtle maniplulation. Oil companies and oil producers are direct beneficiaries of this high stake game.

The problem with academic free marketeers and their cohorts in the media who push for unfettered deregulation hoping for the invisible hand of the market to work its magic is that they fail to realize with so much money involved and so much capital available to the speculators, the invisible hand has now been effectively hijacked by big money for their own benefits.

So much for wild eyed ivory tower neocon academics.

Posted by: Chrisoroid Fordoloid | April 26, 2006 11:02 AM

Will, I agree with most of what you say but look, just a wholesale blaming of Americans as just a bunch of "pussies" who are looking for someone easy to blame gets us nowhere.

I would bet you that if our leaders from the top down were to start talking reasonable about this problem--instead of both sides demagogeing it for their own political interests--the people would listen. They tend to take their cues from their leaders on these issues. That is why they elect them in the first place.

Look. This problem is complex and multi-faceted. Bush and the republicans came to power by selling the public on simplistic, easily explained, bumper sticker sloganeering. So, naturally the public (and the media) have come to expect an equivalent, simplistic, easily explained, bumper sticker solution to the problem.

People will follow where they are led--until it becomes painfully obvious that they are being led over a deadly precipice involving a long, painful fall into an abyss. That is what has happened with the Bush administration and the republican Congress on Iraq, on the war on terror, on taxes and the deficit, on the role and responsiblity of government to help in natural disasters and other major social problems, and now what is fastly becoming a crisis in the demand for oil.

Bush and the republicans--and quite obviously the rest of us as well--are now paying the price for all of those years of deluding ourselves that we could achieve all of Bush's visions with simplistic, easily understood fixes that can be understood with mere bumper sticker sloganeering. Whether we are talking about the crushing debt we are now faced with, or the pending failure of more levies as the hurricane season approaches, or the certain increase in pollutants into our air, or the unending, deadly attrition of our best and brightest in the war in Iraq, or the looming crises in social security, health care and a crumbling infrastructure, what we have come to is the massive failure of a governing ideology that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

What the American people are coming to realize, and what they are going to have to face, is that government does matter. And some of the cherished shibboleths that they have bought into over the past quarter century--limited government, low taxes, deregulation of business and the excessive involvement of special interests into our legislative process--are at the root cause of this massive failure.

Posted by: Jaxas | April 26, 2006 11:19 AM

If one's addiction to crack is starting to cause problems, does it matter which dealer you're buying it from?

Posted by: AfghanVet | April 26, 2006 11:36 AM


You ask me to acknowledge that the problem is complex and it will not be addressed if we resort to simplistically accusing the other side. Then you proceed to simplify the problem --which is Bush, afterall-- and accuse the other side.

You are optimistic about Americans and, if you would accomodate me, I'd like to make a fortune off betting against them. No, I do not think Americans can be seriously addressed about oil prices. The correct amount of gasoline prices, if you asked an American, is always "less". If this mentality continues than we will never seriously address our oil dependence.

At the end of the day I don't really care if Oil Companies make enormous profits. Why? Because gas prices are going up. Consumption will go down as a result. Americans, as we are extremely proficient at doing so, will complain and complain because we have a ridiculous consumer entitlement mentality that says "Our government owes it to us to lower gas prices."

If the key issue really is lowering our consumption, which I think it is, then the only possible solution is to make irresponsible decisions financially unviable.

Alternative energy "solutions" will not create themselves. Investors will not put forth the necessary capital unless the alternative, oil, is untenable. And this alternative will remain perfectly tenable at 3.00 or 3.50 or 4.00 for that matter.

And if you, and I'm speaking generally now, happen to be one of those people who thinks blaming oil companies because it's sooooo unfair that you should pay 3.00 at the pump as opposed to 2.60 --as if you had some American entitlement to cheap gasoline-- then you are complicit.

And if "high gas prices" are merely the result of Bush, or of "business deregulation" then you get to address why the most deregulated and "Bushed" government provides one of the cheapest pump prices the world over: US.

The problem isn't the high price of gasoline, it's the high consumption of gasoline. And the latter can only be curtailed by higher pump prices. Whether or not this is facilitated by oil companies overinflating price for profits or governments taxing the product is really just so much semantics as far as I'm concerned. I'd prefer the latter, because our borrow-friendly government could certainly use the revenue, but the advantage of the former is that it doesn't require any political will. And this country clearly doesn't have any of that.

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 11:41 AM

So much semantics eh Will no matter who get the loots? The end justifies the means? Where have we heard that before? Hitler's concentration camps or Stalin's gulags?

What makes you think a 50c tax will do anything except giving more money to politicians to waste? Hell price could hit 4 dollars at the first news of a hurricane this Summer. We'll see if consumption will go down meaningfully.

I have no problem with demand and supply setting gas price. I have problems with manipulators, bureaucrats, and utopian minded social engineer wanabes doing so.

Posted by: E | April 26, 2006 12:04 PM


You are a model for constructive debate. Identifying price increases as the only reasonable way to decrease consumption makes me morally equivalent with Hitler and Stalin. Thanks for a laugh.

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 12:08 PM


You ain't serious with that 50c tax either. You want it to work make it 3 dollar tax. Yoy want it to work better make the pump calculate the tax based on the vehicle's mpg. If you drive a 15mpg SUV you pay an extra 3 dollar per gallon. If you drive a 50mpg hybrid you get that same 3 dollar back as a credit. I can support that. Count the total annual mileage also.

It's not the price increase perse that I oppose to. It's the way you advocate it. Hitler started out as a mildly upset German corporal you know?

Posted by: E | April 26, 2006 12:25 PM

E wrote:
"I have no problem with demand and supply setting gas price. I have problems with manipulators, bureaucrats, and utopian minded social engineer wanabes doing so."

But supply and demand are being manipulated by OPEC (supply) and speculators (demand). It is not a free market. Our government has powers to impose change. It could affect supply by buying or selling from the oil reserve. It can affect demand by raising federal gas taxes, or lowering them. It can regulate the refineries, imposing fines for refineries sitting idle when demand increases. It can do a lot of things. But the republicans would have you believe oil is bought and sold in a free market so the government should stay clear. If the republicans fought as hard to keep gas prices low so you can keep more money in your pocket as they do fighting to reduce federal taxes so you can keep more money in your pocket, gas prices would not be this high.

Posted by: Sully | April 26, 2006 12:28 PM

E wrote:
"Hell price could hit 4 dollars at the first news of a hurricane this Summer. We'll see if consumption will go down meaningfully."

Well gas prices have gone up 50% in a year (from $2 to $3) and consumption has not really gone down much. If it jumps to $4 this summer that's only a 25% increase from today. I think you'll need to start hitting $6 before Americans start changing their ways.

But the economy is what really gets smacked, even at today's prices. Everything you buy is transported by truck, rail or air. All use oil based fuels and all of those products will go up in price as the money you have to pay for them is draining out of your pockets each time you fill up. If gas prices do not start going down we're heading for a recession, inflation, or both (can you say "stagflation"). Pay $6 for gas and you get mad but loose your job and you get sad. The real danger is a recession or worse and that should be getting the attention of this government. But all we hear is that the FTC will look into price gouging and we should turn corn into ethanol. Someone should tell Bush 'Its the economy stupid'. Where's Clinton when you need him?

Posted by: Sully | April 26, 2006 12:40 PM


You eat babies and you probably agreed with Hitler, therefore I do not have to address the substance of what you say.

Oh all right...

"What makes you think a 50c tax will do anything except giving more money to politicians to waste?"

We currently run about a trillion dollars in deficit every three years, though this could easily be every two years. This budget must be balanced. Increasing revenue while decreasing spending is the only possible way to address the discrepency in government revenue generated vs. government expenditures. A gas tax would be a step in the right direction.

"Hell price could hit 4 dollars at the first news of a hurricane this Summer. We'll see if consumption will go down meaningfully."

As a matter of fact, consumer trends did change dramatically after Katrina when gasoline prices spiked. Consumers, making reasonable decisions about future gasoline prices, determined that it was cheaper to purchase that expensive Hybrid because the cost of gas on the cheaper inefficient vehicle would actually be higher.

"You ain't serious with that 50c tax either. You want it to work make it 3 dollar tax."

EXPOSED! No, actually I don't even want to stop at 3 dollar tax! I want you to give up your first born child to generate electricity like in the Matrix! Booga booga booga!

"Yoy want it to work better make the pump calculate the tax based on the vehicle's mpg."

Why would this be fair? Someone who drives a 50mpg car pays .50 cents more per gallon. Someone who drives a 15mpg car pays .50 cents more per gallon. The system already progressively benefits the 50mpg driver because they can drive 3 times as many miles per gallon as the other driver.

"It's not the price increase perse that I oppose to."

Do not lie, it *is* the price increase you are opposed to because you are a selfish crybaby entitlement thinking American who will always say "less" when asked how much gasoline *should* cost.

"Hitler started out as a mildly upset German corporal you know?"

The Matrix! Booga booga booga! I want your children!

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 12:44 PM


You are a bigger socialist utopian crybaby who thinks only he knows what's best for everybody else. I already said I had no problem with gas price set by supply and demand. Get that?

History has proven time and again artificial manipulations of prices of whatever commodity by govt don't work. It didn't work under Nixon. It didn't work in the kaput Soviet Union. It didn't even work when practiced by the most educated most enlightened technocrats in 1980/1900s Japan. But of course you are better than them all.

The current deficits are triggered by irresponsible fiscal policies in Washington, not because the govt doesn't collect enough money from WORKING Americans.

Posted by: E | April 26, 2006 12:57 PM


We have a half-trillion dollar deficit. If my generation does not pay for it then my children or their children will be forced to pay for it. Forcing them to pay for my (or my elected officials) fiscal irresponsibility would be undemocratic and immoral.

When the deficit numbers in the 300-500 billion dollar range, spending cuts or tax increases alone cannot fix the problem. We need to cut spending and increase taxes. A gasoline tax is merely one way of generating revenue. That is one reason I support it.

Either we can take seriously our goal of decreasing American consumption... or we cannot. So long as gas prices remain where they are, Americans will not ammend their behavior. SUV are financially feasible for millions of Americans because they can afford to drive them. If you want these people in cars that you deem morally acceptable you cannot just ask them to change and cross your fingers. The only plausible way to adjust American oil consumption is to adjust the price of oil. One way to do this is with a gasoline tax.

Most, if not all, of Americas problems can be traced to this "ME ME ME ME ME ME" attitude perfectly expressed by people like you. You are a "WORKING American" thus you deserve cheaper oil. Taxes are for fiscally irresponsible government types... therefore you shouldn't have to pay them.

This chronic unwillingness to address our nations problems because of blatant individual selfishness will have consequences. When was the last time you asked yourself what you could do for this country?

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 01:11 PM

Hi guys,

I have read your comment with a great deal of interest!

However, in this debate the "speculative" argument has been far too neglected. Rumour has it that long term contracts with the largest crude oil suppliers (OPEC) do indeed exist, the relevant party to the deal being an offshore holding company linked to the US oil cartel.

Say this cartell were to hold contracts to buy crude at $22-25/barrel and were creating an artificial shortage by limiting supplies and fuelling (excuse the pun) the siuation by their (own) corporate media coverage on "peak oil", the "devastating" effects of a hurricane called Kathrina, which were really negigeble in this context, the "instability" of the Middle East, etc - what would you expect to happen?

I will be very interested to read your comments


Posted by: potroast | April 26, 2006 01:23 PM

Will Will Will,

Ye of too much faith in politicians. If they have been irresponsible for so long what makes you think handing them more money will work? Wouldn't they just spend it on building bridges to nowhere in Alaska, moving railroad tracks in Miss to make way for casinos, or cut even more taxes for the top 1% instead?

Posted by: E | April 26, 2006 01:30 PM


"If they have been irresponsible for so long what makes you think handing them more money will work?"

Because "handing them more money" is the only responsible thing to do when we generate 500 billion less than we spend. Refusal to increase government revenue is tantamount to refusal to decrease government spending as far as "resonsibility" goes.

The reason there are not responsible people in Washington is because there is an equally large number of idiots on both sides. One large group of irresponsible Americans, like you, says "Taxes are unfair!" An equivalently sized group will scream "Spending should be higher!" The trend in Washington in the 21st century is to give both groups what they want. I would like to change that trend.

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 01:35 PM


What faith do you have that Bush "Gas Prices Probe" would find, or care about, this cartel's manipulation of oil/gas prices?

Posted by: Sully | April 26, 2006 01:47 PM


Good luck with the project! Changing human nature or politician's ain't my game.


Posted by: E | April 26, 2006 01:54 PM

Like I said I know a little about oil as I've worked in it one way or another since 1974. I really didn't want to get into all the specifics of oil companies etc., but I guess I'll have to. The first thing is OPEC gets paid one set price for their light, sweet crude somewhere between $20.00 to $25.00 per 44 gallon Barrel converted to 60 F. Their price doesn't change. They are under contract to the oil companies to provide it at that set price. The oil companies negotiated this price because they supplied the equipment, the exploritive wells, and so on and so forth. What is driving up the oil prices and what changes daily is the crude oil speculators that bid on that oil. Right at this present time crude oil stock (the crude that is in the storage tanks) is up. that means that they have more crude oil in their tanks that what is being shipped to refineries. Why do you think that every time you hear something like this administration rattling Iran's cage door with rumors of a possible military strike that the price shoots up. The speculators are betting that our nut job president is just stupid enough to do it, there by knocking out Iran's supply of crude to the world market, so less supply, same or higher demand, equals a price increase.

Another thing is that the oil companies haven't been bothered with increasing refining capacity, they haven't upgraded existing refineries nor have they built any new ones. This way they can artificially keep the supply down by saying their refineries are running at nearly 100% production, also they can use this over the governments head to make it so they don't impose a tax on excess profits like what happened in the 70's.

Another reason for the major price hike is that contrary to what everyone thinks, the oil companies (only about 6 major players) are indirectly manipulated by the governments of the world. This is a little hard to explain but I hope I can make it clear. There isn't just Exxon or Shell, or Texaco, etc. There is the U.S. based part of the companies, but there is Dutch Exxon, Dutch Shell, UAE Shell, UAE Exxon etc. There is a (you name the oil producing country) Exxon, Shell, Texaco, etc. and each country's government has a hand in controlling these companies. For instance offshore drilling, North Slope Drilling, EPA and pollution control regulations, and should there be a major war of attack involving our country (military) the government is allowed to step in and seize control of the distribution of petroleum supplies in this country.

The last thing I would like to bring out in the open about the oil companies, our government, and our elected officials is this. The way the accounting is done on the storage of oil reserves, and subsequent taxing of these reserves goes this way. The oil companies pay taxes on all oil stored, on the value of the oldest oil that they own. Where say most of the oil they own was purchased at say $ 50.00 a barrel, but they have say 10 barrels of oil purchased at $20.00 a barrel, the taxes are calculated and paid on all the oil they have at the $20.00 rate. Don't try to kid yourself either they know exactly how manny gallons they received right down to the 0.01 gallon. Here is two more interesting facts. The chairman of Exxon/Mobil just retired. Since 1993 up to and including his retirement package, he has been compensated to the tune of slightly over a Billion Dollars. (that's Billion with a B, $1,000,000,000.00) Can you guess who paid for his salary and retirement packages. The reason nothing gets done about the oil companies is that the petroleum industry has high paid lobbiests handing out big checks to our law makers for campaign contributions, donations to their favorite Charity or PAC, etc. You see all is not as it appears on the surface. I know because this is my job.

Posted by: Lab Rat | April 26, 2006 02:59 PM

@ Sully - none - lol

@Lab Rat

Your hinting at what I have been thinking for a long time. The oil reserves are controlled by the same folks who control corporate America - call them what you will, it's the international financial oligarchy.

Some folks won't like reading this, but it's the TRUTH!

Before anyone jumps to conclusions: Iam NOT anti-semitic, ultra-right, or -left for that matter.

Have a nice day.


Posted by: potroast | April 26, 2006 03:16 PM

Like I said, I have work in petroleum since 1974. I have work as the super tankers were parked off shore and they liter off onto smaller vessels. I've had to physically fly out to these tankers observe the litering (unloading) work as a loss control rep for an oil company. Till now where I'm running a petroleum testing lab. So I think I should know the ins and outs.

Posted by: Lab Rat | April 26, 2006 03:39 PM

PS @ Sully

The US Gouvernment, whether Rep. or Dem. is invariably also "controlled" by the int. fin. olig./Corporate America - that is a fact, too.

There have been plenty of books written on the subject as well, such as "None Dare Call it Conspiracy" and "The Rockefeller Files" - a long time ago but they fit into today's theme of "globalisation". Also read books about "Bolchevism" and everything falls into place - literally.

What do you think?

Posted by: potroast | April 26, 2006 04:11 PM

The facts: We haven't built a new oil refinery in America for 30 years! Whose economic purpose did that serve? Again, the price of gasoline today is the price of complacency among the American electorate.

Posted by: ErrinF | April 26, 2006 05:36 PM

ErrinF wrote:
"The facts: We haven't built a new oil refinery in America for 30 years!"

But refineries have been expanded and there are plans to continue the expansion of refineries into 2025. There is no gasoline shortage caused by a lack of refining capacity. Refineries are not running at 100% capacity unable to keep up with demand. The "not building new refineries" argument is an urban legend.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 09:31 AM

potroast wrote:
"The US Gouvernment, whether Rep. or Dem. is invariably also "controlled" by the int. fin. olig./Corporate America - that is a fact, too."

Its a fact that they lobby and heavily influence elected government officials but so do the ethanol/agruculture industries, automobile inductries, etc... I wouldn't use the word "control". Its more likely that the problem is really too large for the simple minded republican leaders to handle. Democrats sent men to the moon in less than decade. Republicans sent our national debt to the moon in only 4 years. Here's a nice chart to chew on:

There is no way a republican government can solve America's problems... they just are not capable.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 09:38 AM

"Democrats sent men to the moon in less than decade."

You don't really believe that myth, do you?

Posted by: potroast | May 4, 2006 01:37 AM

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