Instant view: Obama plans to curb U.S. oil imports by third

Wed Mar 30, 2011 11:42am EDT

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will set an ambitious goal on Wednesday to cut oil imports by a third over 10 years.

Below are analysts' comments on Obama's plan:

BILL FARREN-PRICE, HEAD OF UK CONSULTANCY PETROLEUM POLICY INTELLIGENCE:

"Oil producing countries will not like this but can hardly be surprised since this administration has been clear from the start about its desire to reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil. But without a raft of new demand management measures, cutting imports by a third in ten years looks aspirational at best.

"CNG buses and taxis will struggle to dent the transport sector's reliance on oil, while post-Macondo, US citizens are only too familiar now with the downside of domestic oil production."

JOHN SFAKIANAKIS, CHIEF ECONOMIST AT THE BANQUE SAUDI FRANSI:

"All U.S. presidents since the early 1970s have outlined ambitious plans to reduce their reliance on imported oil. It is not the first time and probably won't be the last.

"The issue is not the supply of oil at this point in time but an exaggeration in oil prices caused by the so-called Middle East risk premium, otherwise known as speculation.

"Obama should be addressing speculation at the same time, as the beast remains untamed ... Saudi Arabia sells its oil where demand is, and more than half of its crude is today sold in Asia and there less reliance on the U.S. market."

SAUDI OFFICIAL, ANONYMOUS

"He (Obama) is just talking to his domestic constituency. Every president comes up with promises for his people but at the end of the day we know it's not feasible. This does not worry Saudi or make any changes to our plans and for the time being we are looking at maintaining our spare capacity."

HARRY TCHILINGUIRIAN, HEAD OF COMMODITY MARKETS STRATEGY, BNP PARIBAS

"It's an interesting conundrum for producer countries like Saudi Arabia. The U.S. wants to reduce dependency on oil but on the other hand they are also expecting a blanket of security through Saudi Arabia maintaining spare production capacity. Producer countries could turn around and now ask where is the security of demand?

"In the U.S. you have a lot of people who commute to work, the whole U.S. model is based on you having your car and being able to travel from A to B cheaply. There's going to be a big difficulty in reducing dependency in terms of oil - will the government consider giving tax breaks to hybrid vehicles?

"It's difficult to say if it is realistic or not. On the supply side people are going to be asking what the policy is in terms of the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and getting oil from shale."

OLIVIER JAKOB, PETROMATRIX

"Cutting imports won't be that difficult as the U.S. has turned into a net exporter of distillates. So if they were to focus on the domestic market, they could cut imports. But it is a bit controversial because how can you tell refiners to cut runs?

"If you look at what (Saudi oil minister Ali) al-Naimi has been saying recently, the Saudis are not looking to the West anymore. For them demand in the West has peaked and the future is really in the East. So Saudi Arabia has given up on the West anyway."

CARSTEN FRITSCH, ANALYST AT COMMERZBANK

"It will be difficult to achieve, perhaps there will be large energy, fuel saving measures or they would need to allow more oil drilling but after the Gulf of Mexico it could be difficult. It sounds like a very ambitious target indeed."

SAMUEL CISZUK, SENIOR ANALYST AT IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT

"From time to time, the U.S. president has to say something like this to a particular part of the domestic constituency and the Saudis understand that ... Officials will probably quietly reassure them (the Saudis) that this is domestic politics."

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