WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Sources of U.S. oil imports have shifted with the country relying increasingly on oil from Saudi Arabia, import figures show.
While imports from Mexico and Venezuela have slowed and oil from the Gulf of Mexico has not reached early projections, imports from Saudi Arabia have risen 20 percent in 2012 compared with 2011, The New York Times reported Friday.
A yearlong moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico put into place after the BP deepwater oil spill has slowed what was expected to be an increase in production in the Gulf.
A projected increase from 1.75 million barrels a day to 2.2 million barrels is 700,000 barrels per day short of the forecast.
Tension in the Middle East has also contributed to the shift with an international embargo against Iran in place.
The embargo is meant to put pressure on Iran due to concerns over an alleged nuclear weapons program.
Iranian officials have also threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz, a Persian Gulf channel through which a large share of Middle Eastern oil is shipped.
The embargo and other regional tensions prompted Saudi Arabia to increase its production to keep global supplies up and the price of oil down.
A driving principle of the U.S. energy policy, however, is to reduce foreign dependence on oil imports, which are economically and strategically unwise.
"At a time when there is a rising chance of either a nuclear Iran or an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, we should be trying to reduce our reliance on oil going through the Strait of Hormuz and not increasing it," former Defense Department official Michael Makovsky, who has experience in Middle East issues, told the Times.