Monday, May 18, 2009

Oil Consumption - barrels/person/year

There are lots of interesting ways to look at oil consumption, but perhaps the most revealing is the number of barrels of oil consumed per person on an annual basis. This statistic is strongly correlated to the level of industrialization and standard of living on a country by country basis. Looking at the graph, you will notice that Canada currently leads the pack of industrialized countries - using around 26 bbls/person/yr. Now we do have cold winters and we live in a big country which requires long distance transportation so we might feel somewhat justified in this level of consumption. In fairness, we might also explain that some of this consumption is used to fuel our oil and gas industry, and our forestry industry, and our mining industry - which mostly export these materials to the USA.

In second place we find the USA at about 24 bbls/person/year. While America uses slightly less oil per person per year, they do have a population more than 10 times larger than our own. This translates to roughly 30% of the total world's oil production being consumed by 5% of the world's population.

As mentioned in an earlier posting, the industrialized countries of Western Europe use less than 50% of the oil per person per year than the average North American. Progressive taxation on energy consumption, investment in public transportation, and major government investments in energy efficiency and alternative energy production have all played a large role. On a more personal note, Western Europeans have learned long ago that a car with a 2 litre engine can transport 4 people just as easily as a car with a 5 litre engine - and not many families feel the need for a 4000 square foot house. Nevertheless, world-wide surveys on happiness and quality of life routinely rank Northern European countries at the top of the list. There is no point feeling guilty about the present situation. There is lots we can do to improve on a personal level and the Obama administration announced today that they will be requiring major improvements for fuel efficiency standards.

There is a much bigger problem lurking in these statistics. Fifteen years ago, China and India both consumed less than 1 bbl/person/year. The past decade of industrialization in China has resulted in an increased consumption level of almost 2 bbls/person/year. The Chinese people would like to continue this improvement in their standard of living. In fact, since the American economy has stalled, Americans have reduced their consumption by 2 million barrels/day. During this same period, China has increased its' consumption level by 700,000 bbls/day.

India also has plans to modernize it's economy and improve living standards for its' citizens. This leads to some real problems. For example, if China were to increase oil consumption by 1 bbl/person/year (for a total of 3 bbls/person/year) this would require a production level of 89 million barrels per day. This exceeds the world-wide maximum daily production level of 86 million bbls/day by more than 3 million barrels. If China's consumption did not increase from current levels, but India increased consumption from 1 bbl/person/yr to 2 bbls/person/year, this would also require production levels of 89 million barrels/day. If India and China both increased consumption levels by 1 bbl/person/year daily production levels would have to reach 93 million bbls. And here is something to think about - If the average Chinese citizen consumed as much oil per year as the average American, this would require production levels to increase by approximately 93 million barrels/day. That is more than double the current peak for world-wide oil production.

Where will this oil come from? How much CO2 can the atmosphere possibly manage?

One thing is for sure - North America needs to set a better example!

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