A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Who Sells American Gasoline?


Q: Is it true that boycotting companies that import foreign oil will "avoid putting more money into the coffers" of foreign countries?

A: No. There is no way to know for sure whether your local station is selling gasoline from imported or domestic oil. Besides, U.S. oil demand is twice its domestic supply.

FULL QUESTION

Could you please "factcheck" this e-mail and let me know the real truth about these claims. Thanks.

WHERE TO BUY AMERICAN GASOLINE

You might want to pass this on. Take a look at WALMART.

WHERE TO BUY AMERICAN GASOLINE THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW.

[EET ]
Gas rationing in the 70’s worked even though we grumbled about it.
It might even have been good for us!
Are you aware that the Saudis are boycotting American products?
In addition, they are gouging us on oil prices. Shouldn’t we return the favor?
Can’t we take control of our own destiny and let these giant oil importers know who REALLY generates their profits, their livings? How about leaving American Dollars in America and
reduce the import/export deficit?
An appealing remedy might be to boycott their GAS.
Every time you fill up your car you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia .
Just purchase gas from companies that don’t import their oil from the Saudis.
Nothing is more frustrating than the feeling that every time I fill up my tank,
I’m sending my money to people who I get the impression want me, my family and my friends dead.
The following gas companies import Middle Eastern oil
Shell………………………………… 205,742,000 barrels
Chevron/Texaco………………… 144,332,000 barrels
Exxon /Mobil……………………. 130,082,000 barrels
Marathon/Speedway………….. 117,740,000 barrels
Amoco…………………………… 62,231,000 barrels
And CITGO oil is imported from Venezuela who’s Dictator Hugo Chavez hates America
and openly avows our economic destruction!
We pay Chavez’s regime nearly $10 Billion per year in oil revenues!
The U.S. Currently imports 5,517,000 barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC.
If you do the math at $100 per barrel, that’s over $550 million PER DAY
$200 BILLION per year! Handed over to OPEC, many of whose members are our confirmed
enemies!
It won’t stop here – oil prices could go to $200 a barrel or higher if we keep buying their product.
Here are some large companies that do not import Middle Eastern oil
Sunoco…………………….0 barrels
Conoco…………………….0 barrels
Sinclair…………………….0 barrels
BP/Phillips………………0 barrels
Hess……………………….0 barrels
ARC0………………………0 barrels
Maverick…………………0 barrels
Flying J…………………..0 barrels
Valero……………………..0 barrels
Murphy Oil USA *……..0 barrels
*Sold at Wal-Mart Gas is from South Arkansas and fully USA owned and produced.
Not only that but they give scholarships to all children in their town who finish high school
and are legal US citizens.
All of this information is available from the U.S. Department of Energy and each company
is required to state where they get their oil and how much they are importing.
But to have a real impact, we need to reach literally millions of gas buyers.
With the help of the Internet, it’s really simple to do.
Now, don’t wimp out at this point. Keep reading and I’ll explain how simple it is to
reach millions of people!!

I’m sending this note to about thirty people.
If each of you send it to at only ten more (30 x 10 = 300).
And those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000).
And so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will
have reached over THREE MILLION consumers!
If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million.
If it goes one level further, you guessed it.
THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE – the entire population of the USA !

Again, all you have to do is forward this message to 10 people. How long would that really take you?
If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people, within one day all 300 MILLION
people could theoretically be contacted during the next eight days.

Thank You for helping to save America !

[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

With gasoline prices reaching $4 a gallon in some places, we’ve received a large number of inquiries about this chain e-mail. Many different versions of it have been floating around the Internet. The one we received seems to have been edited over time: the e-mail references a company that has not existed independently since 1998, and it uses the same statistics as a similar 2001 chain e-mail collected on an urban legends site.

Buy American?

The e-mail urges readers to boycott Middle Eastern oil, particularly from Saudi Arabia.

E-mail claim: Every time you fill up your car you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia. Just purchase gas from companies that don’t import their oil from the Saudis.

The problem is that it’s not that easy to know where your local station gets its gasoline. The Energy Information Administration addressed this on its frequently asked questions page, giving several reasons why it "cannot definitely say where gasoline at a given station originated."

The EIA does collect data on how much oil companies import and the source of their imports. But it doesn’t collect data on the source of gasoline sold at the gas stations. Secondly, the fact that a company doesn’t buy any crude oil from the Middle East doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t sell any gasoline from refineries that used foreign oil. Here’s how the EIA explains it:

EIA: While gasoline is sold at about 162,000 retail outlets across the nation, about one-third of these stations are “unbranded” dealers that may sell gasoline of any brand. The remainder of the outlets are “branded” stations, but may not necessarily be selling gasoline produced at that company’s refineries. This is because gasoline from different refineries is often combined for shipment by pipeline, and companies owning service stations in the same area may be purchasing gasoline at the same bulk terminal. In that case, the only difference between the gasoline at station X versus the gasoline at station Y may be the small amount of additives that those companies add to the gasoline before it gets to the pump.

Even if we knew at which company’s refinery the gasoline was produced, the source of the crude oil used at that refinery may vary on a day-to-day basis. Most refiners use a mix of crude oils from various domestic and foreign sources. The mix of crude oils can change based on the relative cost and availability of crude oil from different sources.

But let’s say we could identify stations that sell gasoline from foreign oil and we boycott them. What would happen? We would be running on empty about halfway through the year. EIA data shows that the U.S. used 19.17 million barrels per day of petroleum in 2010 and U.S. net imports — total imports minus exports — accounted for nearly half (49.3 percent) of that amount.

The EIA answers a question about the potential economic impact of boycotts in its primer on gasoline sources and markets:

Q: Can consumers reduce the revenues flowing to a certain country or countries by boycotting companies that have a history of importing from those countries?

A: Due to the global nature of the oil market, boycotts by individual consumers or even individual countries cannot reduce the oil revenues of a given oil producing country/countries. At best, consumer boycotts of a company known to import crude oil would result in a temporary reduction in the market share of that particular company. Because the overall consumer demand for products made from oil (like gasoline and diesel fuel) would be unchanged, the oil would simply be purchased by some other company.

Which Companies Import Oil?

The e-mail targets specific companies that it says import oil from the "Middle East." The term "Middle East" is not a standard definition used by EIA. In February, the EIA released a report titled "Crude Oil Imports From Persian Gulf," which includes Saudi Arabia. Since the e-mail focuses on Saudi Arabia, we’ll look at imports from the Persian Gulf to determine if the e-mail is correct when it identifies companies that do and don’t import from the "Middle East."

Here are two charts we created comparing the statistics in the e-mail with the actual 2010 import data from the EIA. But before we do, there are two things you should know: the statistics in the e-mail are not dated, and it is not clear whether the amount of "barrels" given in the e-mail represents a daily, monthly or annual number. We will assume that it is an annual amount because the figures are so high.

We found that the e-mail overstates annual imports from the Middle East in every case and incorrectly claims that three companies do not import Middle Eastern oil.

E-mail headline: "The following gas companies import Middle Eastern oil."

Oil Company E-mail, Middle East (barrels)
EIA, Persian Gulf 2010 (barrels per year)
Shell 205,742,000 5,620,000*
Chevron/Texaco 144,332,000 91,168,000
Exxon /Mobil 130,082,000 121,300,000
Marathon/Speedway 117,740,000 76,660,000
Amoco 62,231,000 55,906,000 (merged with BP in 1998)*

* To calculate Shell’s total number, we added the four "Shell" entries we found: Shell Oil Company Deer Park (0), Shell U.S. Trading Company (5,620,000), Shell Oil Products US (0) and Shell Chemical LP (0). For Amoco/BP, we combined amounts for BP Products North America, Inc., (20,252,000) and BP West Coast Production LLC (35,654,000).

E-mail headline: "Here are some large companies that do not import Middle Eastern oil"

Oil Company** E-mail, Middle East (barrels) EIA, Persian Gulf 2010 (barrels per year)
Sunoco 0 0
Conoco 0 18,687,000
Sinclair 0 0
BP/Phillips 0 55,906,000*
Hess 0 0
Valero 0 92,305,000
Murphy Oil USA 0 0

** Maverick, Flying J and ARCO were listed in the chain e-mail, but not on the EIA’s list.

Our charts of imports by company do not include joint ventures such as Motiva Enterprises, which is owned by Saudi Refining and Shell, or WRB Refining which is owned by ConocoPhillips Company and EnCana Corporation. It also doesn’t include companies that have a deal to supply oil to brand-name stations such as Tesoro, which supplies oil to Shell gasoline stations (as the EIA explained, this wouldn’t be obvious to consumers).

Adding It Up

There are a few other things wrong in this e-mail. The U.S. imported roughly 4,776,000 barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC in 2009, according to EIA. The e-mail claims the U.S imported 5,517,000 barrels per day from OPEC, but that hasn’t been true since 2006. However, OPEC imports as a percentage of total imports has not changed since 2006; it was 40.3 percent in 2006, and it was 40.9 percent in 2009. One thing the e-mail doesn’t mention is that in 2009, Canadian imports accounted for 21 percent of total imports, more than any other country.

Also, the e-mail claims that "oil prices could go to $200 a barrel or higher if we keep buying their product." According to the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook, oil prices could hit $210 in a worst-case scenario, but that’s in 2035.

The e-mail is correct that CITGO oil “is imported from Venezuela.” It’s also right that “we pay Chavez’s regime nearly $10 billion per year in oil revenues.” It’s actually now more than $10 billion a year, if you take the company’s total annual imports in 2010 (188 million barrels) and multiply it even by the lowest spot price for 2010 ($65.45 on May 28, 2010). According to the EIA, the company is a “wholly-owned subsidiary of PdVSA,” which is the state oil company of Venezuela.

— Michael Morse

Sources

Energy Information Administration. Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed 25 March 2011.

Energy Information Administration. Primer on Gasoline Sources and Markets. Accessed 25 March 2011.

Energy Information Administration. Crude Oil Imports From Persian Gulf 2010. 25 Feb 2011.

Energy Information Administration. U.S. Imports by Country of Origin. Accessed 25 March 2011.

Energy Information Administration. Annual Energy Outlook 2010. April 2010.

Energy Information Administration. Table 3.3a Petroleum Trade: Overview. Accessed 25 March 2011.