America's dependence on foreign oil is rising Situation is seen as threat to future

April 08, 1993|By McClatchy News Service

Despite a long-held notion that this country should cut it dependence on foreign oil, the reality is that America's dependence is growing steadily -- and within the next few years could hit an all-time high.

Government, petroleum and utility officials from California to Washington, D.C., say the situation is an increasing threat to the nation's future and security.

Hoping for solutions that eluded his predecessors, President Bill Clinton said he is committed to energy conservation and wants reduced consumption of imported oil.

"We are highly dependent on imported oil, and that dependence is not going to go down in 20 years," said Thomas Welch of the Energy Information Administration, the independent statistical and analytical agency of the federal Department of Energy.

The nation's demand for foreign oil is expected to reach 17.5 million barrels per day next year, the highest level in nearly 15 years, according to recent EIA projections.

At least 45 percent of the oil and oil products used in the United States next year will come from foreign countries, said Michael Morris, an economist with the EIA. This year, the country's dependence is expected to be 43.5 percent.

Statistics cited by the American Petroleum Institute show somewhat higher annual percentages, but indicate the same trend.

By most estimates, the point at which consumption of foreign crude and petroleum products hits the half-way point is just around the corner. So far, the highest-ever rate was an unusual upswing to 47.7 percent in 1977.

"It's a long-term trend," said Mr. Welch of the EIA.

"This is the heart of the energy crisis," said S. David Freeman, a former White House energy adviser.

In 1947, when electricity, natural gas and petroleum seemed to be in endless supply, only 8 percent of the crude oil and related products consumed in this country was imported. By 2010, that percentage is expected to be as much as 70 percent.

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