Friday, December 21, 2007

Canada, U.S.' premier source of petroleum import?

I have to say this one surprised me. Up to now, I was under the impression that Saudi Arabia was the premier source of petroleum imports to the U.S.
Not so, says The Energy Information Administration (EIA; a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy)(Link to source).

"In 2006, about 60% of the petroleum consumed in the U.S. was imported from foreign countries. Crude oil accounted for 82% of net petroleum imports and about 66% of the crude oil processed in U.S. refineries was imported."
The top 10 countries exporting petroleum products to the U.S., illustrated below, account for 81% of the total petroleum imports to the U.S.
Now, for argument's sake, let's suppose that in 2006, Canada shipped an extra million barrels to the U.S. (say, through a lower Canadian reliance on petroleum products, increased production, or both...). That's about 50% more than what it does export now. If we suppose that the U.S. would still have consumed 12.4 or so million barrels a day in 2006, which country would they have reduced import from? I suggest a "principled" stance: using the 2007 Freedom Index (Link to Source) let's reduce the import from our top 10 countries in proportion of their 2006 import percentage, weighted by how 'free' the country is. A 'free' country would have no import reduction, a 'partly free' would get an import reduction equal to one time its percentage of imports, and a 'not free' country would get an import reduction equal to twice its percentage of imports. The idea being to reward greater level of freedom.

After redistribution, here's what the pie chart would look like:
A short term (5 years) goal of augmenting Canadian petroleum export to the U.S. by 1 million barrels does not strike me as an 'out of this world' possibility. There is significant opportunities to reduce our oil dependence through measures targeting the transportation and housing sectors. Coupled with a production increase, which is to be expected with all the various oil-sector projects coming online these days, the 50% export scenario sounds about right to me.
Now, since I already have my spreadsheet setup, let's dream a little. Let's suppose the U.S. administration was adamant that for national security reasons, it was a good thing to reduce its dependence on a few key oil-exporting countries which have societal goals which are, let's say, misaligned with America. Let's then suppose that they had been willing to put their money where their mouth is and invest major Feds dollars in supporting U.S. companies developing oil sites in Canada, and building pipelines to support it. And finally, let's suppose this would have boosted Canada's export by 100% instead of the 50% of the previous scenario.

This is where we would have been in 2006:
Not too shabby eh!? Obviously, in real life, things would not be so simple. However, the point I wanted to make is that it would seem that with a barrel at close to $100 and huge resources available for purchase in a friendly and free country nearby, the U.S. has a lot of room to negotiate/buy greater oil independence from nations it might not want to be associated too closely with.
And for us Canadians, this is some good news. If you are a Kyoto Protocol supporter, it is time to lobby for greater environmentally controlled oil export to the U.S. If the Americans are not going to do anything about their oil addiction anytime soon, is it not better for Canada to be the provider? It should be much easier to impose environmental legislation in Canada for the petroleum industry than to hope that Saudi Arabia would do so.

And for the non-Kyoto supporter; well, let me just say... ka-ching!