Today, I decided to see if I could find out whether it’s possible to buy motor fuel in the United States that hasn’t been mixed with imported oil. For this exercise I targeted the Colorado/Wyoming area and the short answer is “No.”
I did find some good news, though. 40% of the 22 million barrels of oil the U. S. consumes daily is produced in the United States. This is higher than I would have supposed and is slightly more than twice the 19% we import from the Persian Gulf.
The bad news is that there is no way to tell where the fuel you pump into your car came from based on where it is being sold or under which brand. Not only that, it is impossible to buy fuel that has not been touched by the two biggest companies, Exxon and Mobil as is being proposed by a widely circulated email titled, “An Idea to Consider.”
This lack of knowing where our oil comes from and which companies have touched it with their infrastructure is based on the nature of the product. Crude oil is pulled from the field and transported to refineries. Most of this is done via the 160,000 miles of pipeline in the U.S. You can no more keep the oil from one field from blending with all the other oil flowing down these pipelines than you can keep water from one river away from all other waters once it reaches the sea.
Further, it is unlikely that ANY retailer in the United States sells exclusively U.S. oil simply because of the placement of the oil fields and refineries in relationship to the consumers. In other words, it is unlikely that there are any oil refineries located where the demand is lower than the national average and since the U.S. imports 60% of it’s crude, this is surely being mixed with domestic crude for refining and distribution.
Back to the area in question: Two of the country’s 149 refineries are in Colorado and 5 of them are in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the producing wells in these two states produce only a fraction of what is being used. I arrived at this conclusion by taking the Colorado population of 4,301,261 plus the population of Wyoming (493,782) and multiplied it by the average U.S. oil consumption of 25 barrels per person per year to come up with a combined annual demand of 119,876,075 barrels per year for both states. Then I took the 17.3 million barrels of oil produced in Colorado in 2000 and added it to the 2002 number for Wyoming, which was 51.5 million barrels of oil to get a supply of 68,800,000. 119.8 million barrels of demand per year minus 68.8 million in supply leaves the refineries looking for another 51 million barrels of oil.
Still clinging to that small shred of hope, I wondered if all the oil the 7 Wyoming and Colorado refineries import might come only from fields in Texas. So, I took the population of Texas (20,851,820) times 25 barrels per year and got 521,295,500 barrels of demand per year. Then I took the Texas oil production of 1,073,000 barrels a day and multiplied it by 365 days to get a supply of 391,645,000 barrels per year. And, alas, the supply falls short of demand by 129,650,500 barrels.
Oh well, nice try. Now if Americans were to reduce their consumption by 60%, they might not need to import ANY oil! “Yeah, right!” I hear you saying, “What a pipe dream THAT is!”