Oil is on the rebound—pricewise. After the price per barrel of crude fell to as low as $30 in early 2016, it closed on May 7 at over $70 a barrel for the first time since November 2014. One reason for the price surge is the agreement by OPEC and other major oil producers early last year to curb production as demand rises in a stronger global economic scenario. Another is Venezuela’s collapse in production, which in 2017 hit levels not seen in almost three decades. As a result, the country is losing some of the business of its biggest oil buyer, the United States, which imported 246 million barrels in 2017.
Venezuela’s decline has made room for other Latin American oil producers to step in. In February, the month for which the latest data is available, Colombia sent more barrels of oil to the United States than did Venezuela for the first time ever. The gap is a mere 100,000 barrels, per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, but still significant for an oil producer like Colombia vying for a bigger cut of the U.S. energy pie. All in all, Mexico is the biggest exporter of oil to the United States among Latin American producers and has been since 2002 with the exception of 2015–2016, when Venezuela was first. Neither Mexico or Venezuela, however, come anywhere near Canada’s hold on the U.S. energy market. As the United States’ top energy supplier, Canada exported 1.5 billion barrels of oil to its North American partner in 2017—six times as much as either Mexico or Venezuela.
With oil in the spotlight, we chart the relationship between the United States and its Latin American oil partners.