As America’s Russia hysteria is stirred once again by the arrival of the long-awaited report of the U.S. Department of Justice on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a surge in Russian oil imports has arrived on America’s shores.
The surge was little noticed by what passes for the U.S. foreign policy apparatus these days which has now become obsessed with toppling the current regime in Venezuela—a regime unloved by American oil interests who saw their property expropriated by the Venezuelan government.
By effectively preventing the national Venezuelan oil company from getting paid for its cargoes to the United States, the U.S. government has forced Venezuela, previously a major source of imported oil, to seek other customers for its mostly heavy crude.
But the loss of Venezuela as a major U.S. oil supplier has opened up room for other exporters, most notably Russia. Russian oil has never been subject to the economic sanctions arranged by the United States against the country. The arrival of increasing amounts of Russian crude at America’s ports belies the notion so frequently trumpeted by a chorus of fawning admirers of America’s get-tough foreign policy that the U.S. can now use its rising oil dominance to advance its geopolitical goals.
Here’s what’s wrong with that story. First, the United States remains a substantial importer of petroleum products, both on a gross and a net basis. Yes, the country does export a large amount of the light oil produced from the shale deposits in Texas and elsewhere because American refineries cannot use all of it. Those refineries are generally designed to mix light and heavy crudes for optimal output. But, this means the United States must import a significant amount of heavy crude. America remains wildly dependent on world oil to keep its voracious refining industry in operation.
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