"Imported petroleum prices fell from an average price of $91.23 per barrel of crude oil in 2014 to an average price of $46.47 per barrel in March 2015, or a drop of 45%. This represents the lowest price per barrel of crude oil since early 2009, when the global economy was slowing sharply. For a short time in 2009, the average price per barrel dropped below $40. The average price of an imported barrel of crude oil in 2014 fell 6% from the average price in 2013. Similarly, the volume of crude oil imports in the first three months of 2015 fell by 7.6% from the same period in 2014. The sharp decline in the average price of a barrel of crude oil combined with the drop in the amount, or the volume, of oil imports in the January-March period in 2015 compared with the same period in 2014 resulted in a drop of 48% in the value of imported crude oil and a sharp drop in the share of the total U.S. merchandise trade deficit that is associated with the trade deficit in energy imports. 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 is an important factor that continues to create uncertainty in global petroleum markets and was one of the most important factors in causing petroleum prices to rise sharply in early 2011 and in 2012."
CRS Report for Congress, RS22204