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Addictive Crude Oil from Unstable Nations
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Addictive Crude Oil from Unstable Nations


Addictive Crude Oil from Unstable Nations
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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As we heard a few moments ago, President Bush vowed last night to reduce America's addiction to oil, especially, the president said, oil that comes from unstable parts of the world. But you may be surprised by just which unstable parts of the world. NPR's Eric Weiner reports.

ERIC WEINER, reporting:

First, a quiz: which country provides the U.S. with the biggest single source of imported oil? If you said Saudi Arabia or Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East, you would be wrong.

The answer is Canada, followed by Mexico and then Saudi Arabia.

Mr. FRANK VERRASTRO (Energy Analyst, Center for Strategic and International Studies): I thought the Middle Eastern part was, I mean, it's grossly exaggerated given the percentage that they supply, hard to pick out one part of the world as being more unstable than other parts of the world, especially if you're projecting 20, 25 years out.

WEINER: That's Frank Verrastro, an energy analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The U.S., he says, gets about 17 percent of its oil from the Middle East, a portion that has remained more or less steady over the past few decades.

More and more, he says, the U.S. is depending on countries like Venezuela for oil, a fact that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is well aware of.

Mr. VERRASTRO: In fact, Venezuela overall is our fourth largest supplier.

WEINER: Nigeria is another major source of oil for the U.S., about a million barrels a day and increasing all the time. Nigerian oil is high-quality, light, sweet, crude oil, which is particularly good for producing gasoline.

But Nigeria has been fraught with tension. Militants have attacked oil refineries and kidnapped foreign oil workers. Again, Frank Verrastro.

Mr. VERRASTRO: And these local militias increase in strength. And for a long time there's been smuggling of oil supplies to the tune of maybe 70,000 barrels a day. Well, 70,000 barrels a day at $60 a barrel is a chunk of change. And then the question is what do they use that for? And if they're buying arms and refurbishing supplies, they're in a situation wherein sometimes they're more, better equipped than the local police or the National Guard.

WEINER: So can we count on this million barrels a day from Nigeria?

Mr. VERRASTRO: In terms of U.S. supply, it's as unstable as a lot of other parts of the world.

WEINER: And that, says Verrastro, is something to think about. Today's stable source of oil is tomorrow's nightmare. Verrastro applauds President Bush for, as he puts it, finding religion when it comes to alternative sources of energy. He just wishes the president had found that religion a bit sooner.

Eric Weiner, NPR News.

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