There is a claim repeated over and over again on the Internet that plastic bags are made out of oil and that 12 million barrels of oil are used annually in the United States to make the plastic bags that Americans use.
It is not true.
About 72.5% of plastic bags used in the United States are made in the United States. Plastic bags are made out of polyethylene. In the United States, ethylene is made of ethane which is a waste by-product obtained from natural gas refining. Domestically produced plastic bags are not made out of oil.
The ethane must be removed from the natural gas anyway to lower the BTU value of the natural gas to an acceptable level. Ethane burns too hot to be allowed to remain in high levels in natural gas that is delivered to homes and businesses for fuel. There is nothing else that the ethane can be used for except to make ethylene. If ethane is not used to make plastic, it will have to be burned off, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions.
Using the ethane to make plastic does not in any way reduce the amount of fuel available for transportation or power generation or increase our energy imports.
If we were to abolish plastic bags, it would have zero impact on our dependence on foreign oil.
The United States is an exporter of polyethylene. The United States imports virtually no polyethylene.