In its battle against Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, the United States has imposed numerous sanctions
on the country in an attempt to deprive Maduro’s government of the funds necessary to run the country.
Having targeted government officials, some economic sectors and Venezuela’s official cryptocurrency so far, one obvious option has yet remained untouched by U.S. sanctions: the country’s oil exports. While a U.S. embargo on Venezuelan oil could be effective in hurting Maduro’s cash-strapped regime, it would arguably hit the country’s poverty-stricken population just as hard. But even the United States has an interest to avoid what experts call the “nuclear option”. Depriving itself of the option to import oil from Venezuela would hurt the U.S. economy as American refineries reliant on heavy crude oil would have to find alternative, more expensive sources for this particular variety of oil.
As the following chart shows, Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the United States. In 2017, the U.S. imported 674 thousand barrels of crude oil and petroleum products per day from Venezuela, making the world’s oil-richest country the fourth largest provider of foreign oil to the United States. Thanks to an increase in domestic crude oil production, the United States is not as reliant on foreign oil as it once was though: in 2017, net imports only accounted for 19 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration
. This was the lowest percentage since 1967.