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There have been reports that the US has increased imports of Russian oil over the past week:

This goes contrary to the US's stated intention of phasing out Russian oil imports and stories like that of the Russian tanker turned back. However, the sources cited above are not what I would call mainstream and they reference statements made by Russian officials. Thus, the question arises of whether these reports are true or not. I see three possibilities:

  1. The reports of the US increasing import of Russian oil are large-scale disinformation

  2. The US has increased Russian oil imports as a way to finish its existing contracts with Russian oil producers before the deadline imposed by the sanctions.

  3. The US is playing Realpolitik - pursuing its own interests both in terms of imposing sanctions and pushing down the fuel prices.

I am interested in confirming/disproving these reports using official government data, customs statistics, etc.

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    When one sees a statement like this in any context, one should ask oneself a few questions: 1. What are the absolute numbers? ("US bought 7 barrels this week, up from 5 last week!") 2. What is the size of the average fluctuations over time intervals of the size measured (US buys 43% more oil than last week, which was 80% less oil than the week before!") 3. Are there any periodic trends ("US imports increased 43% in April over March, unlike last year when they increased 100%!")
    – Obie 2.0
    Apr 6 at 8:45
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    @Obie2.0 Following up the links could help ;) They claim 43% is 100,000 barrels a day. Apr 6 at 8:49
  • Even if those particular articles address it, all those points are still relevant with regard to maintaining skepticism about "percent increase" claims.
    – Obie 2.0
    Apr 6 at 8:50
  • @Obie2.0 Sure, please include them in your answer, just make sure to use reliable sources. As I stated: I am interested in confirming/disproving these reports using official government data, customs statistics, etc. Apr 6 at 8:52
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    There's an almost identical question in Skeptics.SE: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/53174/…
    – Barmar
    Apr 7 at 14:47

1 Answer 1

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Sort of - this claim is based on the figures published weekly by the Energy Information Administration. For the week of 03/25/22, the US imported 100,000 barrels per day, up from 70,000 barrels per day the week before. This is indeed an increase of around 43%.

On the other hand, compared to the four-week average from last year, this is a decrease of around 30%, from 127,000 barrels per day to 89,000 per day. Additionally, the figures for the week of 04/01/22 - published after my initial answer was posted - show a 100% fall down to zero barrels for that week. This data is also shown in graph form below - the claim in your question is based on the final up-tick on the right-hand side of the graph before it drops to zero.

Futhermore, President Biden's executive order of March 8th, 2022 prohibits all oil imports from Russia, although transactions related to contracts entered into prior to this date have been authorised by a General License issued by the Treasury up until April 22nd.

enter image description here

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    Thanks. Now I am not even sure that it was a deliberately misleading statement - perhaps simply media looking for a cheap sensation. Apr 6 at 12:29
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    @RogerVadim that is usually the case. It's easy to manipulate numbers to say anything that you want. A famous phrase goes: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'
    – Manuki
    Apr 6 at 18:27
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    The famous phrase is for those not understanding statistics. In this particular case, the ~40% increase week to week is pretty much normal given the graph above and cannot be considered significant.
    – fraxinus
    Apr 6 at 22:37
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    @RogerVadim "deliberately misleading statement" is still true, even if the motivation is just profit rather than political.
    – barbecue
    Apr 7 at 13:02
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    It is worth noting that a negligible share of U.S. oil consumption is derived from Russian imports and that this has been the case for some time. Further, a big share of U.S. imports of Russian petroleum products in pre-Ukraine War times are low grade "heavy" products not used, for example, as a source from which to refine gasoline.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 7 at 16:28

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