Published Aug. 1, 2008

Is it true that all the oil from Alaska now goes to Japan since it's too expensive to get it to the Lower 48?

The answer is no, according to several sources, including the New York Times, Seattle Times, the Associated Press and

The Trans Alaskan Pipeline Authorization Act of 1973 required that all petroleum from Alaska's North Slope be sent to U.S. refineries.

In 1995, Congress eliminated that requirement, and between 1996 and 2000 somewhere between 4 and 7 percent of the oil from Alaska was being shipped to China, Japan and Korea. But in 2000, British Petroleum was accused of exporting oil to Asia to prop up falling prices on the West Coast. Congress reacted with outrage, and the oil companies stopped exporting oil from Alaska.

The amount flowing through the trans-Alaska pipeline has fallen from a high of more than 2-million barrels a day in 1988 to 740,000 barrels a day in 2007, according to the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. The crude oil that flows down the 800-mile pipeline is picked up by tankers in the port of Valdez. According to state officials, the bulk of the crude is transported to West Coast refineries.

A group of oil companies paid for the pipeline to be built in the late 1970s at a cost of $8-billion. Interest holdings in the pipeline have changed hands several times and today three companies own much of the pipeline and most of Alaska's oil leases: BP PLC, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips.

We use 20-million barrels a day

How many barrels of oil does the United States consume in a year and where does it come from?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we used about 20.7-million barrels of petroleum products per day in 2007. That's around 7.5-billion barrels for the year.

Slightly more than 40 percent of that amount came from inside our borders, including offshore wells. For the other 58 percent, Canada is our biggest supplier, and Saudi Arabia is No. 2. Together, they supplied about half of our imports. Venezuela, Mexico and Nigeria round out our top five in that order. There are 42 gallons of oil in a barrel.

U.S. refines diesel, too

I was just told that there is no refinery in the United States refining diesel fuel. Is this true?

No, it is not true. Almost all 149 refineries in the United States produce some form of diesel fuel, but not all produce on-road, low-sulfur or off-road fuel or home heating oil, says Bill Holbrook, spokesman for the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. More than half of the nation's refineries are producing on-road diesel at any given time.