Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Map Reveals a Web of Oil Imports

A new interactive map unveils the details of an oil addiction.

  • January 7, 2009

For an illuminating look at the web of oil imports that we depend on, check out this interactive Google Maps-based infographic at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an organization that promotes technology for energy efficiency.

Credit: Rocky Mountain Institute

The map features a timeline starting in 1973. As a cursor moves along the timeline (click the “play” button to automate the cursor’s movement, or control the movement yourself by clicking and dragging the cursor), the world map above it changes, showing how much oil is flowing to the United States, and from which countries. Changing a setting (under “Map Units” in the left column, select “Dollars”) shows how much money is flowing out of the United States, and to where. You can select a specific oil crisis (buttons below the timeline) to see the segment of the timeline related to that crisis.

You can also click a button (left column, “ANWR”) to see the size of the potential oil flow from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. When oil consumption was low in the late 1980s, after the oil crisis of that era triggered a massive drop in consumption, it looks substantial. But in 2008, it looks vanishingly small.

One of the most salient things illustrated by the map is just how long oil prices stayed low after the oil crisis of the late 1970s: long enough for people to forget the lessons of that crisis and start buying big, heavy cars again, and get truly addicted to oil.

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