"In general, market demand for oil remains highly resistant to changes in oil prices and reflects the unique nature of the demand for energy-related imports. Turmoil in the Middle East was an important factor that caused petroleum prices to rise sharply in early 2011 and in 2012. Although prices for imported crude oil fluctuated somewhat throughout 2011, they averaged 30% higher than in 2010 and added about $100 billion to the total U.S. trade deficit in 2011. Energy import prices in 2013 averaged 4% lower than they were in 2012, pushing down the price of energy to consumers by the end of the year. During the same period, the total volume of petroleum products imported by the United States in 2013 fell below that imported in 2012, reducing the overall cost of imported energy to the economy and the overall trade deficit. Oil futures markets in March 2014 indicated that oil traders expect crude oil prices to trend around $85 per barrel by August 2014. During periods when oil prices have spiked above $100 per barrel, some elements of the public pressured Congress to provide relief to households that are struggling to meet their current expenses. This report provides an estimate of the initial impact of the changing oil prices on the nation's merchandise trade balance."
CRS Report for Congress, RS22204