The myth and misunderstanding of foreign oil dependence [INFOGRAPHIC]


Not many topics will get as consistent a response in the U.S. as the country’s reliance on foreign oil. Across the political spectrum, almost everyone agrees that the U.S. needs to cut down on the oil it has coming from abroad, particularly from some of the more unstable parts of the world like the Middle East and Africa.

What many people don’t necessarily realize, however, is how little of the country’s oil actually comes from these parts of the world.

Net imports of crude oil and petroleum products – the country’s total imports minus its total exports – amounted to 8.4 million barrels per day in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That sounds like quite a lot, and it is compared to literally any other country. American net imports alone would be the third-largest oil consumer in the world, behind only the U.S. and China. At the same time, though, the U.S. as a whole easily tops global oil demand with around 18.8 million barrels per day in 2011. With overall demand so high, the country’s net imports account for only around 45 percent of the country’s consumption.

The rest of the country’s oil comes from places like Texas, Alaska, California, the Gulf of Mexico and a growing number of new players in the oil and gas industry like North Dakota. In fact, the boom in oil and gas exploration from shale deposits around the country is expected to make the U.S. the single largest oil producer in the world before the end of the decade, pushing the country past Saudi Arabia. Already the U.S. has surpassed Russia to take the number two spot.

Domestic production aside, most American oil imports do not come from the Middle East and Africa. In 2011, more than half of all U.S. imports – 52 percent – came from the Western Hemisphere, with Canada taking the top spot at 29 percent of all imports, Venezuela ranking third at 11 percent and Mexico following up at fifth with another 8 percent. Second place Saudi Arabia only accounted for 14 percent of American imports.

The Washington Post reports that some parts of the country actually don’t use Middle Eastern oil at all. The central and northern parts of the country ranging northward from Utah to Oklahoma and on to Tennessee import essentially exclusively from Canada. Even the biggest supplier along the East Coast is Nigeria.

As oil investments in the U.S. continue to boost American production, imports are only likely to decline further, bringing the country that much closer to energy independence.