Dependence On Foreign Oil

Volume 10, Issue 35: September 2, 2008Politicians Seek to Exploit Unwarranted Fears of Foreign Oil

The United States gets about two-thirds of the oil it consumes from foreign producers.

This worries many Americans, and politicians know an opportunity when they see one. Consistent with the political tradition of turning fear into votes, both Barack Obama and John McCain propose breaking the U.S. "addiction" to foreign oil. In his latest op-ed, Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, argues that dependence on foreign oil is nothing to fear.

Eland argues that although oil is a "strategic" commodity in the narrow sense that military vehicles run on oil derivatives, the United States could ably fight a regional war by relying on domestic supplies alone: the U.S. produces about 1.8 billion barrels of oil barrels annually, almost 13 times the amount used by the U.S. military for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at their height. A war that shut down oil distribution from the Middle East (the source of one-fifth of U.S. oil imports) would raise oil prices, but the U.S. economy is resilient enough to withstand such a supply shock. (Consider Germany: oil prices there rose 211 percent from late 1998 to late 2000, but economic growth continued at a respectable rate.)

"Of course, a war anywhere in the world will cause the price of oil to go up," writes Eland. "But about 80 percent of U.S. semiconductor imports come from East Asia, yet the media doesn't constantly run hysterical stories on price spikes in semiconductors or on the horrible U.S. dependence on East Asian semiconductors. And the politicians don't talk about using the U.S. military to safeguard such supplies from East Asia."

"U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil: Why We Shouldn't Be Alarmed," by Ivan Eland (9/1/08)

"Do We Need to Go to War for Oil?" by David R. Henderson (9/1/07)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)