Integration and Competition in the Petroleum Industry

By Melvin G. De Chazeau; Alfred E. Kahn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
The Pricing of Crude Oil: II. The World Market and the Role of Imports

TRADITIONALLY this country has been a net exporter of petroleum if crude oil and refined products are considered together. Following World War I, however, until 1932, when an import duty of 21 cents per barrel was imposed, our imports of crude oil generally exceeded our exports by upward of 100,000 b/d. It was only the volume of exports of refined products that preserved this net export position.1 Crude oil imports were substantially cut back following 1932; but subsequent tax reductions under the Venezuelan agreement of 1939 and, more importantly, rising prices and the added requirements of war brought a renewal of the crude oil import balance in 1941. It became continuous after 1943, and in 1948 the physical volume of all petroleum imports (crude and refined products) outweighed the aggregate of exports. Since that time the volume of imports has grown persistently in contrast to the volume of exports. In 1950 an import balance developed even on a value basis for the aggregate trade, and beginning with 1953 the pendulum seems to have shifted permanently in this direction.


THE EMERGENCE OF CONFLICTZI

The initial import balance in 1948 came as a relief to an economy straining to satisfy the vast surge of postwar full-employment demands. In 1947, as already noted, there was real shortage despite new record output. In 1948 entirely new heights were reached in both productive and exploratory efforts. Domestic crude oil production spurted from an average of 5,088,000 to 5,520,000 b/d and at the same time new wells drilled, excluding service wells, jumped from

____________________
1
In three years of domestic oil shortage ( 1920-22), however, the import balance for crude oil was so large that a net import balance was generated for the aggregate volume of crude oil and refined products. See U. S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Oil Imports, "Effects of Foreign Imports on Independent Domestic Producers", House Report 2344, 81st Congress, 2d Session ( 1950), pp. 15, 39.

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