The US Imports 1.5 Billion Barrels of Oil a Year from "Dangerous or Unstable" Nations


You may have heard this song before, but it's one well worth replaying: the United States imports 4 million barrels of oil a day--adding up to 1.5 billion a year--at a cost of nearly $1 billion a day. That's $1 billion dollars a day that we're sending to nations with governments that are listed as "unstable or dangerous" by the US State Department. This is not a sustainable practice on any level--just look at the infographic above to get a more distinct grasp of how much money we're spending, and where it's going. The Center for American Progress has just issued a report that's well worth reading, aptly called Oil Dependence is a Dangerous Habit. It's opening salvo:

A recent report on the November 2009 U.S. trade deficit found that rising oil imports widened our deficit, increasing the gap between our imports and exports. This is but one example that our economic recovery and long-term growth is inexorably linked to our reliance on foreign oil. The United States is spending approximately $1 billion a day overseas on oil instead of investing the funds at home, where our economy sorely needs it.


Which is hard to argue with--we're spending billions of dollars a year, investing in unstable nations that, as Obama would say, "don't like us very much." Nigeria, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (!)--these are the nations that we're investing US capital in, while jobs continue to vanish on our shores. It's money that could be invested in clean energy like wind and solar. I don't care how whether you think global warming is a hoax--there's simply no persuasive argument for continuing to do business as usual when it comes to our energy policy.

And, as the report points out, we simply can't continuing consuming oil at the rate we do:

Our oil dependence will also be increasingly harder and more dangerous to satisfy. In 2008 the United States consumed 23 percent of the world's petroleum, 57 percent of which was imported. Yet the United States holds less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. Roughly 40 percent of our imports came from Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, but we can't continue relying on these allies.

Nothing is going to change as long as companies have an incentive to maintain the status quo--Exxon made $45 billion last year by importing 43% of its crude from unstable nations. Chevron made $23 billion with half its crude coming from such places. Without energy reform, there's little incentive for corporations to invest in clean energy--which is why the big oil companies are relentlessly campaigning against it.


But clean energy reform would be a boon to the nation in almost every way. Besides cutting our dependence on foreign oil, it would spur investment in jobs and clean technology stateside--to the tune of $150 billion (when combined with the stimulus). Independent analysis finds that the climate bill which passed the House last year could create as many as 1.7 million new jobs.

And then of course, there are the environmental benefits: "Burning oil imported from "dangerous or unstable" countries alone released 640.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is the same as keeping more than 122.5 million passenger vehicles on the road." Cutting that out of the picture would obviously be a major improvement.

It's pretty simple--clean energy reform is an investment in sustaining the prosperity of America. The status quo marks a continued investment in oil companies and sometimes-hostile governments. It's time for a change.

Read CAP's full report here.

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