Published April 25, 2012
No Mideast oil. That's the promise from one U.S. oil company, United Refining Company.
When drivers pull up to its pumps, they fill their tank with gasoline that is refined from 100 percent North American crude, which means oil that only originates from the U.S. and Canada.
"We think Americans feel good about it," says United Refining Company chairman and CEO, John Catsimatidis, a well-known New York billionaire businessman who is proud that he is offering gas made in the U.S.A.
"People drive by, and every time they get annoyed at...(Hugo) Chavez, every time they get annoyed at BP Petroleum, every time they get annoyed at the Middle East, you know what they say? ‘Why don't I buy American oil and buy American-made gasoline?’"
The company sells the gas at more than 300 stations in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio under the Kwik Fill, Country Fair and Keystone brands. Boasting that it is "American Made Gasoline Driving America!," United's refinery is located in Warren, Pa., where Catsimatidis says a pipeline was built from Canada 35 years ago to refine crude from our neighbor to the north.
Catsimatidis says profits have been up 27 consecutive quarters since the company started advertising that its oil is 100 percent North American. Television commercials highlight that feature, and Kwik Fill gas stations have patriotic “Driving America” signs touting the fact that the gas is American made. Even the handles of some gas pumps are branded with the slogan.
“That’s why I buy it here,” Kwik Fill customer Jan Potter tells Fox News as she filled her car in Sugar Grove, Pa., “because it’s made in the U.S.A.”
She calls herself, “one of the Americans that’s upset about us being so tied to other countries for our oil and gas, and I would much prefer to buy American than from other countries.”
Catsimatidis says relying on domestic sources, and those from stable neighbors and not the Middle East, provide for price and supply stability for customers.
"What happens if Iraq gets bombed, or Saudi Arabia gets bombed, or Iran stops shipping?" he asks, saying pipelines are more efficient and cheaper means of transporting oil than tankers sailing from overseas.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country currently imports 45 percent of our crude oil from foreign sources, and about one-fourth of that is from Canada. Saudi Arabia accounts for just more than 13 percent, Venezuela almost 10 percent. Imported oil hit a recent high of just more than 60 percent in 2005, overall.
Relying only on North American crude for gasoline is "going to make prices lower," predicts Chicago-based Oil Analyst Phil Flynn of PFGBEST.
He tells Fox News that selling U.S. and Canadian crude means "you don't have to ship oil from the Middle East, you don't have to worry about an Iranian war premium, you can produce oil at home, or in Canada, and that is going to keep the price of gasoline down...bottom-line, is that when it comes to gasoline prices, more domestic production over the long run is going to lower gasoline prices."
Others are not so sure.
"It doesn't matter from a price point of view," says Guy Caruso, senior adviser in the Energy and National Security Program at Washington, D.C.'s Center for Strategic and International Studies. He notes that crude prices are set uniformly on global markets, but acknowledges that selling only American gasoline is "good for security reasons and the balance of trade, and to the extent of developing more American crude."
"If you take North America as a whole, it is not unrealistic that within a 20-year time frame, we could be purchasing little or no crude from outside of the region."
Catsimatidis is optimistic that Americans can eventually turn off the foreign spigot, and says his gas stations are a good start.
"The Chinese are down in the Gulf of Mexico drilling oil right next to Cuba. What makes that kosher? I think it is very important that the United States becomes more self-sufficient, maybe not 100 percent, but we can get to a high number."