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Don't buy gas from Iraq?

You may have seen recent e-mail messages about a "Gasoline Solution" that suggest we should buy gasoline that's not from Middle East. The message lists companies and how many barrels of oil they supposedly get from the MidEast.

It continues," All of this information is available from the Department of Energy and each is required to state where they get their oil and how much they are importing.They report on a monthly basis. Keep this list in your car; share it with friends. Stop paying for terrorism."

Sounds like a good idea but in reality this is another Internet hoax. ClevelandSeniors.Com checked with the Department of Energy and learned the following:

According to the most recent figures regarding crude oil imports, only 31% of the USA's imports came from Arab OPEC countries (Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia) in January 2002. The top six countries (by percentage of total USA imports) supplying crude oil to the USA in January 2002 were:

  • Saudi Arabia: 16.9%
  • Mexico: 15.1%
  • Canada: 15.0%
  • Venezuela: 14.4%
  • Iraq: 11.4%
  • Nigeria: 5.9.%

Persian Gulf Oil Chart

This chart from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DoE) web site, shows that only 56% of the oil exported from the Persian Gulf in 2001 came from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and that figure is probably even lower now that Iraq has cut its oil exports in protest of Israel's recent actions on the West Bank.

The statistics offered about the specific gas companies are incorrect as well. For example, Citgo is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the national oil company of Venezuela, so naturally most of its crude oil comes from there. However, in February 2002 CITGO also imported from Iraq and Kuwait.

As an urban legend site says "Moreover, the idea that oil companies sell gasoline only through their branded service stations -- and therefore if you don't buy gasoline from Shell-branded gas stations you're not sending money to Shell (or, by extension, the Middle East) -- is wrong.

Oil companies sell their output through a variety of outlets other than their branded stations; as well, by the time crude oil gets from the ground into our gasoline tanks, there's no telling exactly where it came from. (A good deal of the crude oil purchased from Russia, for example, is oil from Iraqi fields sold through Russian middlemen.) "

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted Economics Prof. Pat Welch of St. Louis University who said "any boycott of "bad guy" gasoline in favor of "good guy" brands would have some unintended (and unhappy) results.

Although foreign relations wax and wane, Welch says, the law of supply and demand is set in stone. "To meet the sudden demand," he says, "the good guys would have to buy gasoline wholesale from the bad guys, who are suddenly stuck with unwanted gasoline."

So motorists would end up buying Arab oil anyway -- and paying more for it, because they'd be buying it at fewer stations."

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