oil and warfare
a briefing on the true cost of oil consumption
Addicted to oil?
The United States consumes 19,498,000 - almost 20 million - barrels of oil every single day. At 42 gallons per barrel, that's 818,916,000 gallons, or enough to fill 1,365 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Why so much?
Crude oil and petroleum products constitute the lifeblood of American society, entangling almost all aspects of its economy, and influencing the daily habits and outlook of its citizens. Everything from the cars we drive, to the shampoo we use to wash our hair, to the bags we put out the trash with, somehow rely on oil.
How is this oil used?
Of the 20 million barrels of oil used every day, about $6.5 million, or 29%, are used for residential or commercial purposes (5%), in industrial settings (23%), or to generate electricity (1%). The other $13.5 million barrels/day, a whopping 71% of total oil consumtion, are used entirely for transportation, meaning that America uses 945 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of oil every single day just on vehicles.
Where does all this oil come from?
Why does this matter?
It matters because the US relies on foreign countries for 66% of what is most vital to its economy and way of life. This means the US must factor oil supply into its diplomatic choices. In some cases, this provides an incentive for armed conflict. In other cases, this requires the US to compromise other diplomatic objectives with foreign actors, such as human rights issues. In the end, the US or any country that cannot maintain energy independence remains vulnerable and comprimised in its security and its capacity to effectively make decisions in both its own interest and the global best interest.
What does that have to do with me?
Everyone in the US remembers the $5/gallon gas during the summer of 2008. Others will remember the oil crisis of 1973 that threatened to bring the US to a standstill. Foreign oil consumption exposes the US to price inflation, cuts in production, strikes, pipeline disruptions, regime changes, and embargoes - all which can severely impact the US. In doing so it also forces the US to invest significant resources, time, effort and lives in mitigating these problems and insuring that all the oil keeps flowing home. By reducing foreign oil consumption, all this energy and money could be directed elsewhere.
So, how exactly does oil affect foreign policy?
Since oil is so critical to America, it influences our diplomacy abroad, making the maintenance of oil importation play a major role in how we handle foreign relations. It persuades the US to fund governments it may be ideologically in question with, and turn a blind eye to actions it would otherwise be free to condemn. As such, it has the potential to compromise the US’s international integrity and cause it to support interests that may ultimately be against its own.
How could electric vehicles change this?
Tremendously. As said above, 71% of the oil the US uses - 13,500,000 barrels/day - is for transportation. Of this, 8,898,000 barrels/day - or 46% of the US's oil consumption - is used for motor gasoline. And so, if America were bold enough to make the entire switch over to electric vehicles, it would cut our oil consumption by almost a whopping half.