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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 15:24 GMT
Q&A: US dependence on foreign oil
A US military vehicle passes a burning oil pipeline near Fallujah, Iraq.
Iraq's oil infrastructure is under regular attack from insurgents

President George W Bush pledged to drastically cut US imports of oil from the Middle East within the next 20 years, in his annual State of the Union address.

BBC News looks at why the world's biggest consumer of fuel wants to change the source of much of its oil imports and develop alternative energy supplies to power its economy.


What does President Bush want?

In a nutshell, he wants the US to cut the amount of oil it imports from the Middle East by 75% by 2025.

As the world's dominant economic power, the US is also the world's biggest consumer of oil.

Although the US is an oil producer itself, it relies heavily on crude imports from elsewhere in the world to fuel its cars, homes and factories.

Why does the US want to cut its reliance on Middle Eastern oil?

Washington is concerned about the stability of oil supplies from the region.

"We have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," President Bush said in his Sate of the Union address.

Although the world's biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, remains a staunch ally of the US, analysts fear political unrest or a terrorist attack on Saudi oil facilities could hit supplies to the West.

The American-led war in Iraq has increased discontent among many in the Arab world at US foreign policy.

Attacks by insurgents continue to damage Iraq's oil infrastructure, and the general instability has helped to fuel recent record oil prices.

Where does the US get its foreign oil from?

Although Middle Eastern countries supply the US with much of its crude, they are not America's only source of oil.

Producers in the Persian Gulf actually make up less than a fifth of all imports and just 11% of total US consumption, according to the US Energy Department.

By contrast, America's immediate neighbours - Mexico and Canada - are the biggest individual exporters of oil to the US.

Canada exported 782.5 million barrels of oil to the US in 2004, while Mexico exported 609 million barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Saudi Arabia, which is by far America's biggest supplier in the Middle East, exported 570 million barrels in the same year.

What is the US proposing to do?

President Bush plans to break America's addiction to oil - and in particular oil from the Middle East - "through technology".

In his address to Congress, he announced an "Advanced Energy Initiative" to develop new fuel technologies.

Department of Energy funding on research into clean energy sources would be increased by 22%, he added.

"We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen," President Bush said.

The US would also fund additional research into producing ethanol, with a view to making the fossil fuel alternative competitive within six years, he said.

What do the critics think?

As a former Texas oil man, and a friend of many leaders at the heart of the US industry, President Bush's pledge to encourage a switch from oil has raised eyebrows in some quarters.

Critics say his previous energy initiatives have had little impact on oil prices or supplies.


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