The percentage of US oil imports from Russia is the highest in decades – at 3.5%

Some members of the US Congress hinted Thursday that the United States ban oil imports from Russia in an attempt to blunt President Vladimir Putin’s ruthless and murderous assault on Ukraine.

The problem is that only 3.5% of oil imported by the United States came from Russia in 2021. Incidentally, this is the highest percentage for at least two decades.

As I’ve written before, when it comes to Russia, gasoline – not oil – is the problem. The United States received more imported gasoline from Russia in 2021 than from any other country, at 21%

Oil is another story. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. oil imports in 2021 came from Canada, according to U.S. Census Bureau data that I reviewed. That’s $75.95 billion from Canada, just $4.71 billion from Russia. Add Mexico, and nearly two-thirds of all oil imported into the United States comes from a neighbor.

When it comes to oil imports, the 3.5% attributed to Russia in 2021 might have been the highest percentage in at least two decades, but it wasn’t the highest by value. It was only the fifth highest total since 2008, the record year for US oil imports by value.

How is it possible? Hydraulic fracturing in the United States helps explain.

Since 2008, the value of US oil imports has fallen by 62.36%, thanks to a huge increase in domestic production caused by hydraulic fracturing, which has also, until now, controlled prices. In dollar terms, U.S. oil imports have fallen $220.48 billion since the record year of 2008.

As fracking took hold, the United States did something else. It ended what was essentially a four-decade oil export ban, dating back to the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

While oil imports decreased by 62.36%, oil exports increased by nearly 3,000%.

The Port of Houston shipping channel is one example, which has gone from a large trade deficit – imports exceeding exports – to the largest trade surplus in the country among more than 450 airports, seaports and border crossings.

So, yes, Russia now accounts for a larger percentage of US oil imports than it has since at least 2003, the earliest data I have access to. This is partly due to the fact that the United States no longer imports oil from Venezuela or Syria while imports have fallen sharply from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Mexico and Russia, among others.

Oil imports from Russia in 2021, at $4.71 billion, represent a 45% drop from a decade ago.

If there’s a silver lining in all of this, and with the bombings of Ukraine invading our homes every night, it’s hard to find any reason for optimism, it’s that the United States are no longer so beholden to competitors or enemies for imported oil.

Here are some numbers to show you what I mean:

In 2003, oil exports accounted for 0.16% of the value of oil imports. In other words, a pittance. In 2021, this percentage was 52.12%, the third consecutive year above 50%.

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