The United States is increasing its dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia, raising its imports from the Kingdom by more than 20 percent this year, even as fears of military conflict in the tinderbox Gulf region grow.
The increase in Saudi oil exports to the United States began slowly last summer and has picked up pace this year. This reversal is driven in part by the battle over Iran’s nuclear program. The United States tightened sanctions that hampered Iran’s ability to sell crude, the lifeline of its troubled economy, and Saudi Arabia agreed to increase production to help guarantee that the price did not skyrocket.
Many oil experts say that the increasing dependency is probably going to last only a couple of years, or until more Canadian and Gulf of Mexico production comes on line. “Until we have the ability to access more Canadian heavy oil through improved infrastructure, the vulnerability will remain,” said David L. Goldwyn, former State Department coordinator for international energy affairs in the Obama administration.
In the event of a crisis, the US could always dip into strategic petroleum reserves; domestic production continues to climb; and Gulf of Mexico refineries could be adjusted to use higher-quality, sweeter crude oil imported from other countries.