No subject is more vexing, or more mysterious, than Middle East oil.
The Arabs have it and the West -- Europe mostly but also the United States -- needs it.
Here are some questions and answers about the cur-rent oil situation:
Where is the oil?
The Arab states produce about 60 percent of the world's oil and are estimated to have 70 percent of the world's oil supplies. The major non-Arab producers are Iran, Indonesia, Venezuela, the United States and the Soviet Union.
The industrial countries of Western Europe and Japan have virtually no oil for their own, although oil companies have said there may be oil off the coast in the Baltic Sea.
How much Arab oil does the United States need?
About 6 percent of U.S. oil consumption comes from the Middle East. The United States also imports oil from Venezuela to supplement domestic supplies.
For years, American oil men opposed relaxing import restrictions on oil, arguing that this would discourage new oil prospecting. American oil men also have argued for the Alaska oil pipeline, opposed by environmentalists but now approved by the Government on grounds it would lessen U. S. dependence on the Middle East for oil.
Recently the United States has encouraged the Arabs, and Saudi Arabia in particular, to increase its oil production to help solve the U.S. energy crisis.
Among the Middle-East countries Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter to the United States. The daily average import of Saudi crude oil amounts to 434,000 barrels a day, or about 16 per cent of all imports; Iran, not an Arab state, is second with 257,000 barrels a day. Algeria is third with 153,000 barrels a day. The total U.S. consumption of crude oil is 17 million barrels a day. Algeria also is a major exporter of natural gas to the United States.
What if the Arabs stop selling their oil to the United States?
Administration officials have said the United States could get by without any Middle East oil imports, but that this would require petroleum rationing similar to World War II, although not as extensive.
In particular, it would require rationing of home heating oil, used especially in the U.S. Northeast Corridor, and gasoline. Even before the Arab threat, a mandatory allocation program was announced.
What about price increases made Tuesday?
Six Persian Gulf oil exporting states -- Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq. Kuwait. Abu Dhabi and Bahrain -- increased the market price of their crude oil by 17 per cent to $3.65 a barrel, and increased the posted price of their oil by 70 percent, to $5.11, said U.S. and Arab oil sources.
The market price is the amount paid by the purchaser at a Middle East port.
The posted price is an arbitrary figure used in determining the amount of royalty taxes the companies must pay for the oil they drill and ship. The new posted prices mean that Western oil companies must pay $3.12 in taxes on each barrel of oil, or only 53 cents less than the market price. Thus the Arabs will receive almost as much for their oil as if they drilled and shipped it themselves.