Almost none of US petroleum comes from hostile Middle East nations - less than 1%
The War on Terror and anti-American sentiment in the Middle East has raised
our gasoline prices to an all-time high. Or has it?
Everyone knows that most of our oil comes from the Middle East, which is why
we're so heavily dependent upon them for our energy. And when they don't like
us, for example when we bomb them, they jack up our prices to hit us where
it really hurts. Or so I've always heard. But is any of that really true?
More than a third of our petroleum, about 37% of our total usage, is produced
domestically by our own oil companies. I'm not sure why people seem to forget
about those guys, ExxonMobil and Chevron and all of them; you may resent
them but they are the
principal source of our non-foreign-dependent energy. So this means that only
a bit less than two thirds of our petroleum is imported. That still means most
of our petroleum comes from OPEC, right? Wrong. Most of our petroleum imports
come from non-OPEC countries; 56% of it, in fact. Of that 56%, the majority
is from Canada and Mexico, who are about as far removed from the Middle East
as can be. The rest of it is from other random places like Angola, Russia,
the Virgin Islands, and Brazil, all of whom are friends of ours. So exactly
where is all this leverage from anti-US exporters coming from?
assume that it comes from the OPEC countries, who provide the remaining 32%
of our petroleum. Well, here's the next monkey wrench. Of that 32%, almost
none comes from hostile Middle East countries. The biggest supplier is Saudi
Arabia, a relatively Westernized country (economically if not in human rights) that's our biggest ally in the region.
Number 2 is Venezuela (in more ways than one); their president may be headed
for a rubber room but they're hardly a Middle Eastern terrorist nation. Number
3 is Nigeria, and I'll bet you didn't know that they had an industry other
than sending emails promising millions. Number 4 is Algeria, and what's left
comes from Iraq, which isn't allowed to hate us any more now that we occupy
them. In fact, less than 1% of our petroleum comes from hostile Middle East
No blood for oil, say the anti-war protesters. I'm against the war
too, but I'm interested to hear that particular claim defended. Yes, the United
States does launch some pretty unpopular military actions in this world, but
not against anyone who provides any significant part of our oil. No blood
for oil. Looks
great on an anti-war protest sign. Sounds great on 60 Minutes. But what's it
based on? I don't know.
So I don't understand. Since none of our oil supply is dependent on these
Middle Eastern countries we're always fighting with, how come that fighting
affects our gas prices? Sounds like a smoking gun to me. Clearly, we wouldn't
be fighting them if we weren't getting some oil out of it somewhere, say the
conspiracy theorists. Maybe the Saudis are behind it. Maybe attacking Iraq
is a way to please Saudi Arabia. Well, if it is, the fighting sure didn't improve
our gas prices much. From what I can see, we've gained nothing by attacking
Iraq. We certainly haven't won any free oil or earned any favoritism discounts.
So why do the conspiracy theorists draw this connection? I don't know. None
of it makes any sense to me.
Yet, something has driven up the gas prices. Whose word do we accept unconditionally:
the government's, or that of the anti-US conspiracy theorists? Maybe a liberal
dose of skepticism is due. Maybe all of these people are speaking with an agenda,
rather than with responsible critical analysis.
An advertisement in the New Yorker magazine costs a lot more than an advertisement
in People Magazine, despite the fact that People Magazine reaches many more
readers. A Porsche Turbo costs almost twice what a Porsche Carrera costs, even
though they're 98% identical. A Rolex contains the same parts as a Timex but
costs a hundred times as much. Has the world gone mad? When did prices suddenly
jump off the sanity wagon? Since when do companies charge a penny more for
their products than their production cost?
Prices are driven by markets. Markets are driven by human beings. Human beings
are driven by emotions. Emotions, like fear, explode when we get into a war.
When we get into a war in an oil-producing region, petroleum markets in those
regions go insane. Stockholders get nervous. Traders freak out. Prices climb
the tree like mad to escape the tsunami. Everyone between you and the guy who
connects the hose to the well in Yemen becomes terrified, and oil becomes the
most prized commodity on the planet. It's simple, it's obvious, it's organic,
and it's Economics 101. It's not blood for oil and it's not a Halliburton
conspiracy. It's a fact of world economics, and the tidal force of the world
economy is the strongest superpower on Earth: greater than Dick Cheney, greater
than Osama bin Laden, greater than anti-war protesters. The US administration wishes it
could control oil prices like this.
I'm well aware that this little outburst of mine is not going to change the
mind of anyone who believes that the war in the middle east is all about oil.
I know that plenty of listeners are going to find fault with my research and
point out that we did in fact get seven barrels of oil from a hostile country
ten years ago. I know that many listeners are going to drag out the tired old
adage that if Iraq produced pencils instead of oil, the Gulf War would never
have happened. I know that many listeners are going to point out that regardless
of short-term price hikes, it's essential for the US long-term energy strategy
to have a strong military presence in the Middle East. I know I can't change
your mind. What I can do is to encourage you to be skeptical for a moment.
What I can do is to encourage you to look up, on your own, where our oil actually
comes from. When you see how little of it comes from the Middle East, and especially
how almost none of it comes from the hostile parts of the Middle East, I hope
that you will at least re-examine the blood for oil claim. Is that
small percentage of oil truly more important than virtually everything else
about our country, to the point where we'd infuriate everyone in the world,
plus most of our own people, to wage a war? I'm not a politician and I don't
claim to know what the war is really about, but when I look at the oil question
skeptically, it just doesn't emerge as a logical cause. I'm not claiming to
have the answers and I'm not even claiming to be right, but I am claiming
to have thought about it more, and personally done more independent research
into the sources of our petroleum, than most people who simply parrot the blood
for oil slogan because it's a great sound bite and because it's an easy
and trendy way to be anti-Bush. I'll give you a great starting point for your
own research, an
article by the engineering editor of Road & Track, and you'll
find the link for it in the online transcript of this episode.
I fully expect this episode to be among the least popular, and the most criticized.
It's always more popular to be skeptical of the government, than to
be skeptical of those who doubt the government. So go ahead, I'm all
through talking now; bring it on.