Simanaitis Says

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TRUMP’S RECENT exclamation-point-endowed pandering to Saudi Arabia suggests the need for an update on countries supplying oil to the U.S. To avoid yet further trumpery (Merriam-Webster: “crapola, hogwash, rubbish”), I share facts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

How Significant is Our Imported Oil? According to, “In 2017, U.S. net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum from foreign countries were equal to about 19 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption. This was the lowest percentage since 1967.”

That is, in 2017 the U.S. produced about 81 percent of the petroleum it consumed. What’s more, this has been an increasing percentage over the years. Since May 2011, the U.S. has been a net exporter of petroleum products. In 2015, for example, the import/domestic petroleum ratio was 24/76.

Who Are These Foreigners Anyway? Year after year, by far the most significant source for U.S. oil imports is Canada. I used to say “our closest and friendliest neighbor,” but recent trumpery has changed this.

The top five vary from time to time, but Canada is invariably first. Image for January 2015 from

The top five countries of gross petroleum imports to the U.S. for 2017 were Canada (at 4.05 million barrels/day, 40 percent of the import total), Saudi Arabia (0.96 million barrels/day, 9 percent), Mexico (0.68 million barrels/day, 7 percent), Venezuela (0.67 million barrels/day, 7 percent), and Iraq (0.60 million barrels/day, 6 percent). The other 31 percent came from more than 100 other countries.

A Fascinating List. The full list of imports, compiled monthly by eia, makes for fascinating reading. In August 2018, the most recent accounting, foreign countries provided the U.S. with 323,382 thousand barrels of oil. Let’s abbreviate this unit as KBO, e.g., 323,382 KBO.

There are 14 members of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and 117 non-OPEC countries on the list. Statistical bit players for August 2018 include Guatemala with 29 KBO, Thailand with 11 KBO, South Africa with 2 KBO, and Switzerland with 1 KBO. I never thought of the Swiss Alps festooned with oil derricks.

Recent monthly totals of U.S. imports, those from the Persian Gulf, from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and from individual OPEC members. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

OPEC members accounted for 88,564 KBO, or 27 percent of the August 2018 total. Thus, with imports at about 19 percent of total U.S. consumption, this international cartel controls around 5.1 percent of filling up your car (0.27 x 0.19 = 0.0513, and aren’t you glad Mrs. Grimbly made you study percentages).

The Troublesome Persian Gulf. What’s more, OPEC members aren’t all in the troublesome Persian Gulf. Not that these others are all peaceable places, but Algeria, Angola, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria are in Africa. (Don’t ask Trump for a descriptor.) Ecuador and Venezuela, the latter, not without its serious problems, are even in our hemisphere, for goodness sake.

The Persian Gulf contribution for August 2018 is 49,580 KBO, 15 percent of U.S. total imports, 2.9 percent of U.S. consumption.

And What of Saudi Arabia? The Saudi contribution for August 2018 is a local high in the monthly data at 32,220 KBO. That is, it makes up 10 percent of U.S. total imports, 1.9 percent of U.S. consumption.

Exclamation Points Omitted. Please spare us comments on national security such as “As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018


  1. jlalbrecht64
    November 24, 2018

    Although it is awesome that we import so much less oil than we used to, I would much rather it is because we use less, rather than frack more. We are stealing from Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes. At 54 and living abroad I won’t suffer the consequences, but my younger friends and family in the US will. We need more alternative energy – and this coming from someone who has a lot of his income derived from fossil fuels!

  2. David Rees
    November 30, 2018

    Excellent summary and analysis Dennis, thank you.

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