16 Countries That Send the United States as Much Oil as Nigeria

azerbaijan oil field photo

photo: Nick Taylor via flickr.

It's solidly conventional wisdom that the United States is dependent on foreign oil. And this is one time where the facts do bear that out, with EIA data showing that in 2008 the United States imported 66% of its crude oil. But what that figure doesn't really show is how much of that oil actually comes from nations which are friendly to the United States, or at least neutral:Now, in the interests of full motivational disclosure, this isn't a deep political analysis of the US oil supply stream. Rather it's just a quick bit of number crunching that I hope illuminates the complexity of the situation.

Which is where the title comes in: In looking at the EIA data, it turns out that there is group of at least 16 countries that, when taken together, supply to US with as much oil as its fifth-largest supplier, Nigeria. Who knew? I didn't, until I started running some numbers.

Keeping in mind that all the data here is based on EIA annual data for 2008, rounded slightly, and just for crude oil (not other petroleum products), let's start with the basics: Who are the top suppliers of US oil?

US Gets More Oil from North America Than From Saudi Arabia
Well, the single largest country, is (perhaps surprisingly) the United States itself. In 2008 domestic crude oil production amounted to approximately 1,811,800 thousand barrels, or 34% of total crude oil supply. Following behind are our neighbors north of the border. Last year Canada supplied the US with 716,000 thousand barrels, or 13% of total supply/20% of imported supply.

The second largest importer is Saudi Arabia, with its 550,300 thousand barrels of imports in 2008 -- 10% of total supply/15% of imports. Mexico comes in third, supplying 8% of total US demand in 2008 and 12% of imports.

Rounding out the top five are two decidedly unstable/hostile-to-the-US places: Venezuela supplying 7% of total US crude (11% of imports) and Nigeria with 6% of the total and 9% of imports, in the form of 337,360 thousand barrels.

offshore oil rig photo

photo: Stig Nygaard via flickr.
Small Imports Add Up...
All of that brings us to the part I found so interesting: Way down at the bottom of the list, each exporting less than a million barrels of oil to the United States, and some far less than that, are a group of nations, all of which are avowed allies of the US or at least neutral/not currently nationally hostile...

Here they are, in thousands of barrels in 2008: Brazil (84,370); Colombia (65,080); United Kingdom (29,500); Congo (24,670); Gabon (21,270); Australia (12,230); Norway (10,900); Vietnam (10,630); Argentina (10,530); Trinidad & Tobago (8,360); Indonesia (6,020); Guatemala (5,390); Thailand (5,150); Cameroon (6,630); Peru (3,830); Kazakhstan (1,230). Plus there are some other nations, like Belize and New Zealand which export even lower amounts. All that adds up to 308,570 thousand barrels of oil = 6% of total US supply and 9% of imports.

In May Not Be Domestic, But Most of US Oil Comes From Friends...
So, from the six nations plus one block the US sources 84% of its oil -- 61% originates domestically and from friendly/neutral nations and 23% from three nations which are decidedly less than savory (at least from an international relations point of view...)

oil truck photo

photo: Robert Couse-Baker via flickr.
...But We Still Need to Get Off Oil ASAP
Just to keep some comments in check: None of this of course takes into account the fact that Canada's pushing environmentally super-destructive tar sands oil, or that peak oil is upon us and that will change those international dynamics, of the fact that the US has a massive addiction to petroleum (regardless of source) that needs to be drastically curtailed, or that we need to transition away from fossil fuels in general as quickly as possible to prevent civilization-wrecking climate change.

It's just that those last stats bring a far different picture to mind than the usual one when the 'US is dependent on foreign oil' (code for: we're supporting terrorists) mantra is recited. At least to me.

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