Energy

As Biden Opens Strategic Oil Reserves, 10 Things To Know


While the United States is far less dependent on foreign energy than at any time in decades, President Biden authorized the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the nation’s strategic reserves.

It is the fourth such emergency release since the strategic reserves were created in 1975, shortly after the Arab Oil Embargo led to shortages and gas lines in the United States. The last one was in 2011, when Biden was President Barack Obama’s vice president.

The move carries a certain degree of symbolism, an effort to tap down inflation by putting pressure on OPEC nations to produce more oil, thus reducing the cost of gasoline at the pump. Not only is the United States producing more oil, it no longer gets nearly as much of its foreign oil from OPEC nations as it once did.

That’s far from the only change with regard to U.S. oil, gasoline and natural gas exports and imports.

Looking at U.S. Census Bureau data through September, the most recent available:

The value of U.S. imports of oil this year is the 16th lowest total in the last 19 years. The lowest year was the first nine months of 2020, as the pandemic crimped great swaths of the U.S. economy.

The value of U.S. exports of oil is the greatest in 19 years. The totals for the last five years are the five greatest values, with the Covid-19 2020 total the third-greatest.

Saudi Arabia was the nation’s top provider of oil in 2002, accounting for 15.22% of the total. Through September of this year, that percentage is 6.06%.

For the second consecutive year, Canada is on track to account for more than 50% of all U.S. oil imports, more than five times the value of oil imported from second-ranked Mexico, at 10.52%.

Hemispheric nations Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are all in the top eight nations, with these five — including Canada and Mexico — accounting for more than 75% of all U.S. oil imports.

In 2002, Venezuela accounted for 13.79% of U.S. oil, trailing only Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Canada. This year, the United States has not imported any oil from Venezuela for the first time in at least decades.

The United States still imports more oil than it exports but it has run a surplus in gasoline (and other refined petroleum products) since 2019 and in natural gas (including LNG) since 2014, through September.

When combining oil, gasoline and natural gas trade, oil has never accounted for a smaller slice of that total than this year, at 47.05%, largely due to the decrease in oil imports and increase in natural gas exports. Until 2012, that percentage was above 60%.

The release of 50,000 barrels is equal to about 2 1/2, typical, pre-pandemic days of U.S. oil consumption.

The reserves, stored in four locations beneath so-called salt domes in Texas and Louisiana, can hold as much as 727 million barrels of oil.



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