Really interesting Bloomberg article on how Latin America is importing more refined oil products from the United States, which has been a trend for some time. And why? The problem I've mentioned too many times to count, namely lack of infrastructure. Latin America, after all, has plenty of oil:
In the past decade, oil companies in Latin America chose to invest in exploration instead of more capital intensive refining capacity, Hart’s Favela said. It’s cheaper to import from the U.S. than to produce domestically, he said.
Building refineries is an expensive, long-term project that produces no short-term political gain. Making announcements about oil discoveries, meanwhile, provides plenty of great political sound bites. It's sexy. You just have to hope that nobody pays much attention when it doesn't pan out, as in Brazil.
This brings us back to the core of dependency. Latin America has oil, but cannot refine it, so ultimately finds it cheaper to rely on the United States to do so, thereby crippling its capacity to do so on its own. The last Latin American refinery was built in 1992.
A last, unrelated, point. There are lots of stories about how ridiculously cheap Venezuelan gas is. But gasoline in the United States is the 11th cheapest in the world. We complain mightily when the price of gas goes up, but as in Venezuela it's all relative. We're not as exceptional as we like to believe.