U.S. Ethanol Industry Wants Oil to Have Its Very Own "Born In" Label

Last Updated Sep 1, 2009 5:53 PM EDT

If given a choice, would Americans turn away from a gasoline pump filled with fuel born in Saudi Arabia in lieu of a more homegrown option? The U.S. ethanol industry thinks so.

Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol industry group, has launched the aptly titled Label My Fuel initiative and its aim is as straightforward as it sounds: require a national standard of country of origin labeling for fuel. This COOL standard, Growth Energy argues, already exists for other consumer items like coffee and beer. So why not require oil to do the same?

"We do it in banking, agriculture, automotive, the manufacturing of clothing and there's no reason we can't do it in fuel," said General Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, at the Farm Progress 2009 Show. For his complete comments check out the youtube video posted here or go to the group's new Web site labelmyfuel.com.

But it may be a bit more complicated than, say, identifying where coffee beans are grown.

Crude produced from a field is typically combined with oil from other fields to form a stream of crude within a pipeline. Streams from different pipelines may be blended to improve the quality of the oil. By the time the product is refined and makes its way to the pump, the fuel may list several sources.

Let's say lawmakers answer Growth Energy's call and legislation is passed requiring the "born in" label. Will it change their pumping habits? What if most of the fuel came from Canada?

Here's where there may be a bit of disconnect between Growth Energy's latest idea to reduce America's foreign dependence on oil and the American consumer.

Clark seems to think that most Americans believe their gas is a local product.

"The American people deserve to know the truth about the hidden costs of oil: The neighborhood filling station doesn't pump neighborhood gas -- it pumps a product of foreign origin that costs consumers and taxpayers billion of dollars every year," said Clark in a statement released Tuesday.

Ask a dozen people at the local gas station where their fuel comes from and they'll probably say Saudi Arabia, Iraq or the more sweeping Middle East. Which isn't wrong. But it's not entirely correct either.

The largest exporter of total petroleum products to the U.S. is Canada. Our northern neighbor exported more than 2.5 million barrels per day to the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. The remaining top 5 exporters countries were Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Perhaps gas station owners will see the capitalistic opportunity in all of this. If Americans really want their oil to be born in the U.S.A. (or Canada), they just might pay a premium for it.