Venezuela & Reducing Foreign Oil Consumption
The Individually Possible Series: Part 1, Venezuela & Reducing Foreign Oil Consumption
20% of people who we engage with (current and potential customers) think their individual choices won't make a positive impact on the environment. I hear you and understand where you're coming from!
I'm not here to make a case for climate change. Whether you believe in climate change or not, or whether you think you can make a significant change in your ecological footprint or not. But there is at least one thing that as individuals we can indeed change that has a direct impact -- reducing the reliance on foreign oil and directly lessening the funnel of funds to illicit and non-state actors through the purchase of their oil.
The oil industry is likely one of the most controversial topics, whether it is the improper taxation to direct investment, the oil industry in the US is receiving a massive boost while at the same time heavily relying on foreign oil resources. The US remains one of the largest oil producers in the world with nearly 40 percent of oil needs met at home; and yet continues to import most of its oil from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Here's the breakdown of foreign oil imports by percentage since 2016 by each foreign country:
Where does the US Import Oil From?
As seen above, it is reasonable to say that we import cheap oil and export expensive oil for a simple reason — it is profitable. The transport cost of oil is much less than the price difference between high and low-quality oil. In 2016 the United States imported around 10.1 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum from over 65 countries, with petroleum referring to anything from crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, liquefied refinery gases to gasoline and diesel fuel. With about 78 percent of gross petroleum imports crude oil.
Why is this important? Because 65% of all oil that is imported is used solely for personal daily transportation in the US (not agriculture, not heating homes -- it's everyday individuals driving to and from work!). So if we relied on alternative ways for our daily work commutes, we would rid the importing of oil.
Not only would we help reduce oil consumption for the environment, but also minimize the importing of oil from countries like Venezuela. We mention Venezuela because it remains one of our largest oil suppliers and yet one of the countries that most struggles to meet its oil demands at the same time. While also providing economic prosperity to illicit and non-state actors.
By ‘non-state actors’ we mean “an individual or organization that has significant political influence but is not allied to any particular country or state” (Oxford Dictionary). WWF, Acumen Fund, BRAC, Danish Refugee Council, United Nations, UNICEF, Green Peace, The Nature Conservancy are all examples of non-state actors. And while some lobby for domestic oil use and renewable energy sources, as they should, others, lean more towards the importing of oil, diminishing our efforts for sustainable development.
So let us see exactly where the problem lies with the importing of crude oil from Venezuela.
Venezuela’s oil revenues account for about 95 percent of its exports with the oil and gas sector accounting for about 25 percent of the gross domestic product. Venezuela’s current oil production is estimated to be around 2.7 million barrels per day, which is 13 percent lower than when Chávez took office in 1999.
While Venezuela has vast supplies of extra-heavy crude, the grade contains a lot of minerals and sulfur, which need to be extracted for oil to be usable. To sell and transport the oil, the extra-heavy crude needs to have the minerals strapped down -- a process known to be both expensive and lengthy. With Venezuela struggling economically and politically, this process only imposes an extra burden on both its natural resources and its political and social climate — only to satisfy foreign demand like that coming from the US. While Venezuela has billions of barrels of medium and light crude that could easily be used internally as well as exported, a lack of investment has ensured that these resources are not only undermined but rarely even considered.
Venezuela’s exports to the U.S. have fallen from 1.5 million barrels a day to less than 800,000 barrels a day, which has something to do with Venezuela borrowing money from China and having to repay it solely in oil; with the current US policy stakeholders particularly invested in the future of Venezuela’s oil imports. In fact, additional measures could drastically cut future oil imports from Venezuela, which would put the country in a very bad place financially (Durden).
Venezuela is barely managing to satisfy its demands for oil and is quite dependent on importing oil itself, while on the other side the US continues to rely on its resources.
The argument can be made that this is changing. But here's the catch. New research shows that the U.S. is producing more oil domestically while reducing its dependence on oil in general. Five years ago, we were importing 10 million barrels a day, but now that number is around $8.4 million barrels. The catch is that oil once cost about $50 a barrel, whereas today we pay nearly $100 a barrel. Even though we are importing less, the price has risen 2x.
Can we afford it? Contributing to the economic instability of another country, the fueling of non-state actors motives that go against the betterment of their country or the importing of oil 2x its value?
These are all questions we answer with the importing of oil, that as individuals we can control. We recognize that these are nuanced issues and with complicated consequences, nonetheless we make our decision with our daily commutes.
We aren't here to sway you one way or another. But as I promised here there is no way as individuals we can become domain experts in every issue. This post is intended to bring awareness and inspire many to see how their daily personal choices can make a difference.
Below are five suggestions to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and the associated risks as seen in Venezuela.
1. Reduce your vehicle use
I am expecting some hesitation on this one. But the harsh reality is that 75% of all imported oil goes to the transportation sector, of that percentage 65% goes directly to daily commute of citizens putting gas in their vehicles. As individuals, we have collectively fueled imported oil.
We can change this at least by reducing the use of gas vehicles or carpooling and removing the lone driver in vehicles commuting every day.
Alternatively, switching to hybrid vehicles has a huge impact. They have an unparalleled fuel economy, often reaching over 40 miles to the gallon, and they can be fueled by the same infrastructure used today with no special considerations or changes.
Thirdly, we're biased here - choose an electric vehicle which uses no gasoline and produces no exhaust. Thanks to many advances in technology, electric vehicles have a longer range than ever before. Drivers can go a few hundred miles on a charge, and more regions are embracing the infrastructure electric vehicles need than ever before.
Not only will you be directly reducing the importing of foreign oil but also positively impacting the environment. And if you are concerned about your daily commute in an electric vehicle -- don't! Unless your daily commute is outside of the national average of 37 to 50 miles round trip daily, you'll be fine. Most electric vehicles can accommodate this and to make things better there's us. We provide the "Mophie" for your electric vehicle. It's a battery pack that partially charges vehicles, so you don't have to be tethered to a particular location or utility line.
Lastly, embracing renewable energy which is generated from natural resources like sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat. Most relevant of all being biofuel, which is produced through contemporary biological processes, such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion, rather than a fuel produced by geological processes such as those involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum.
2. Buy local products
Transportation costs are reliant on the oil sector and buying local products ensures that those costs are reduced, while at the same time filling the domestic bank with money allocated towards domestic products. A win-win for all! For example, companies that source local goods, like Blue Apron or shopping at your local farmer's markets.
3. Limit to discontinue the use of perfume and scented products
Nearly 95% of the chemicals in most perfume is derived from petrochemicals!? That’s right! You might want to ease on buying those new, fancy perfumes and swap them for an ~all natural~ (clean!) scent product. This includes scented cleaning products. For example Method and Grove Collaborative cleaning supplies.
4. Reduce the use of plastic
I am a culprit for this one. But, you'll want to stop buying bottled water and bottled juice and plastic bags! They take too long to recycle and can easily be swapped with re-usable bags and bottles. And hey, you’re not only helping yourself but the environment as well.
5. Turn down the heat
The major energy uses in homes goes towards space heating (42%), followed by electronics, lighting and other appliances (30%), water heating (18%), air conditioning (6%), and refrigeration (5%) (EIA). The takeaway— turn down the heat (a little) — your cozy blanket will get you through, believe us. You may even want to consider a smart thermostat like Nest.
And while there are some other ways to reduce your oil consumption, taking care of how much heat and gas you use is the key starting point you should consider. Do we want to fuel the import of oil from Venezuela? And continue to feel its consequences.
Our everyday activities can make an impact. We all know this. But hopefully, after reading this, you have a place to start in making that positive impact.
This post is part of the "The Individually Possible Series" series helping to start to spark the conversation on what small changes we can do that move the needle. What do you think? Let us know @viyaio!
Photo by André Robillard