Decline of Saudi Oil Imports Shows U.S. Shale Production is Crucial for Energy Security

Oil imports from Saudi Arabia into the United States have hit their lowest levels in decades, providing further evidence of the importance of the shale revolution to American’s energy security.

For the week ending Nov. 1, data from the Energy Information Administration show that the United States imported just 177,000 barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia. That is the lowest weekly total of the entire decade, according to the data available back to 2010.

The drop has happened quickly and coincided with huge gains in U.S. production and exports driven by shale development. As recently as 2014, the United States was importing more than 2 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia – more than 11 times today’s level.

A further look back shows a long-term downward trend in Saudi imports. In August 2019, the United States averaged 461,000 barrels of oil imported per day. The last time imports were that low for a month was March 1987 when it was only 430,000 barrels per day.

In the years since the late 1980s, the United States often imported large amounts of oil from Saudi Arabia including more than 2 million barrels per day in May of both 1991 and 2003.

But those imports have fallen sharply since the American shale revolution took off in the mid-2000s. The United States has turned into a global energy superpower that has left behind a past of relying on Saudi Arabia and other nations for imports.

Benefits of Made-in-America Energy

The decline shows how the United States can increasingly rely on its own energy supplies to meet demand both at home and abroad.

This presents a golden opportunity. Importing oil from foreign countries exposes the United States and allies to supply chain disruptions that might come from trade conflicts, extreme weather events, political whims and wars.

Thanks to the shale revolution, oil and natural gas production continues to hit new highs and provide the United States with increased energy security. According to EIA, oil production hit a record of 12.3 million barrels per day in August. Natural gas production also hit a new high at 111 million cubic feet per day.

Shale has allowed America to eclipse both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer.

This growing production has not only strengthened America’s national security but boosted the economy through exports of these energy resources around the world. The United States is becoming the world’s leader in oil exports and LNG exports and that’s good news for American diplomacy.

There are also massive environmental benefits to the growing American energy sector because U.S. producers have higher standards than other nations and are utilizing constantly improving technology.

A recent International Energy Agency report found that natural gas replacing traditional fuel sources for electricity generation could prevent 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions. The United States is also leading the globe in reducing emissions thanks to natural gas, representing 50 percent more U.S. emissions reductions than wind or solar combined since 2005.


It’s clear that oil imports from Saudi Arabia have been declining for years and it should keep trending downward if pro-energy policies are kept in place. That’s good news for the U.S. economy, energy security, and American foreign policy and a testament to American operators who have powered the shale revolution.

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