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The U.S. imported roughly half a million barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia per day in 2019, the last year before the pandemic while President Donald Trump was in office.
In the final week of 2020, amid the pandemic, the U.S. imported no crude oil from Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years. But the trend did not persist the following week.
Rattling off a list of praises for former President Donald Trump during an interview with Donald Trump Jr., Fox News host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that under Trump, the U.S. completely scrapped its reliance on oil imports from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.
"If you look pre-COVID, your dad, he got us to energy independence," Hannity told the younger Trump during the Dec. 1 episode of "Hannity," his primetime TV show. "We didn’t import a single barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia, the Middle East."
Sean Hannity said in this clip that “if you look pre-COVID" under Trump, "we didn't import a single barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia.” That’s False. In 2019, the U.S. imported 500,000 barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia per day. https://t.co/K3eadpBMPK pic.twitter.com/E78uCAEzQK— Bill McCarthy (@billdmccarthy) December 2, 2021
At the end of Trump’s presidency, PolitiFact rated his promise to achieve energy independence as a Compromise, noting that the U.S. was moving in the right direction but not there yet.
But it’s inaccurate for Hannity to claim that "pre-COVID" under Trump, the U.S. "didn’t import a single barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia."
In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the U.S. imported about 500,000 barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia per day, and over 182 million barrels in total, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Imports also came from other countries in the Middle East.
In 2017 and 2018, Trump’s first two years as president, the U.S. imported about 949,000 and 870,000 barrels of crude oil per day, respectively. In 2020, when demand crashed in the middle of the year because of the pandemic, the number was down to about 498,000 barrels per day.
"It’s wrong," Mark Finley, the fellow in energy and global oil at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said of Hannity’s claim.
Experts told PolitiFact that the U.S. still relies on imported oil, including from the Middle East, even as it moves toward greater energy independence.
"In the last few years, the U.S. has come very close to producing as much oil as it consumes," added Severin Borenstein, the faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas at the University of California, Berkeley. "But that does not mean we don't import oil. We still import and export to match crude locations and types most efficiently with refineries."
Canada and Mexico are currently the U.S.’s main sources of imported oil due to cheaper transportation costs. But oil imports and net oil imports from Saudi Arabia and other countries have been steadily falling for over a decade, driven in part by a domestic boom in shale oil, experts said.
"The underlying causes predate the Trump presidency by many years," said Arthur Van Benthem, associate professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Through a Fox News spokesperson, Hannity said he was referring to the Bloomberg article, and the spokesperson cited other times he spoke of the topic with slightly more accuracy. Most recently, on Nov. 25, he claimed, "Donald Trump, at the end of his presidency, wasn't importing one single barrel from Saudi Arabia."
The drop to zero shipments from Saudi Arabia for the week ending on Jan. 1, 2021, was a first in 35 years, the Bloomberg report said. And it wasn’t a trend that persisted in the weeks that followed, as Trump’s term as president came to an end.
"Focusing on one week in 2020 is misleading," Van Benthem said.
Hannity said that "if you look pre-COVID" under Trump, "we didn't import a single barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia."
That’s way off, experts said. Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that in 2019, the final year of Trump’s presidency before the outbreak of the coronavirus, the U.S. imported about a half million barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia per day.
We rate Hannity’s claim False.
Fox News, "Hannity," Dec. 1, 2021
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed Dec. 2, 2021
Bloomberg, "U.S. Imports No Saudi Crude for First Time in 35 Years," Jan. 6, 2021
PolitiFact, "U.S. nears ‘energy independence’ Trump promised during 2016 campaign," July 15, 2020
Statement from Fox News, Dec. 2, 2021
Email interview with Severin Borenstein, professor of economic analysis and policy and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas at the University of California, Berkeley, Dec. 2, 2021
Email interview with Arthur Van Benthem, associate professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Dec. 2, 2021
Email interview with Gary Hufbauer, nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Dec. 2, 2021
Phone interview with Mark Finley, fellow in energy and global oil at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, Dec. 2, 2021
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