I went to the U.S. Government’s  Bureau of Economic Analysis Site the other day looking for some information on imports and exports of manufactured goods.
However, when I saw the data for General Imports of Crude Oil by Country, what I saw stopped me in my tracks. (in the supplement, Exhibit 3,  page 35 of 47 in the .pdf.)

Oil Drums
We use a lot of oil...

Here are the top 10 foreign suppliers of petroleum to the U.S. Figures cited are in thousands of barrels, and are for the month of August 2009 from Supplement Exhibit 3:

Canada               60,714
Venezuela           36,247
Mexico                 32,007
Saudi Arabia        27,675
Nigeria                 26,806
Iraq                      14,579
Algeria                  10,945
Angola                    8,761
Brazil                      8,388
Colombia                7,741

Venezuela is our number 2 supplier?
Nigeria is number 5.
Iraq is 6th, and Angola and Colombia make the top ten?
Quick!  Can you name  any U.S. companies that manufacture solar panels  here in North America? A technology that might just help us replace the need for imported petroleum in our daily lives?
Can you name any North American companies that manufacture lithium-ion batteries?
What do you make of these facts?

The US, EU and Mexico have just  (2 hours ago) jointly made a formal request to the WTO for a dispute-settlement panel to address China’s export restraints on a number of  raw materials  of interest to our precision machining industry.  Bloomberg coverage here.
Raw materials such as

  • coke ( used in steel), 
  • zinc (used in brass),
  •  bauxite (aluminum ore),
  •  fluorspar (steelmaking slag conditioner),
  • magnesium,
  • manganese (steelmaking ingredient),
  • silicon metal (steelmaking deoxidizer),
  • silicon carbide (desulfurizer)

 These are among the materials listed in the filing. These are important (essential!)  ingredients into the steel and metallic raw materials our industry consumes. We remember reading about this as an emerging concern in June in the Globe and Mail.

How they load steel in Hubei, China.

 The economic issue is that this “resource hoarding” results in artificially lowered cost for these raw materials in China  and in effect becomes a subsidy for those  manufacturing operations that China deems “strategic.”  While at the same time making these materials more difficult (and Expensive) to obtain for non Chinese companies.
Peace” according to Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary, “in international affairs is a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”  I think that this is a particularly useful perspective in this situation.
Diplomacy,” according to my 8th grade History teacher, Mrs. Abernathy, “is war by other means.”
Our industry, the EU, Mexico, and the United States- all of us  are certainly looking forward to some diplomatic success. 
The panel is expected to be convened Nov. 19th.
We all live here together. Why not trade fairly?

Steel loading Photo via  Globe and Mail originally Shanghai Reuters.
Earth photo credit: NASA.