Animation: Oil Imports to the U.S. Have Shifted Dramatically Over 15 Years
While green energy is making inroads particularly at the electrical grid, the majority of energy in the United States is still consumed by the industrial and transportation sectors. Today, it’s still true that about 90% of all energy used for transportation comes from petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.
This means that oil is the undeniable 800-pound gorilla in the energy mix for now, and that’s why it still accounts for 35% of all energy consumed in the United States.
Throughout the last 50 years, America’s heavy dependence on oil has always created unique political and economic pressures, especially when that oil couldn’t be produced domestically. As we witnessed in the 1970s, untimely oil price shocks can rattle an entire economy, and control over oil production ultimately translated into leverage for foreign organizations like OPEC, and countries such as Venezuela, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.
Oil independence is something that almost all U.S. politicians can get behind. It means more domestic job growth, and diminishing influence for foreign oil producers. Propelled by technologies such as fracking and horizontal drilling, the U.S. has been edging towards this goal. Since 2008, U.S. crude oil production has grown from five million to near nine million barrels per day. Now, the U.S. is again the world’s biggest producer.
However, as today’s animated graphic from HowMuch.net shows us, there is another significant change that has occurred recently, and it has more to do with where the remaining foreign oil comes from. In particular, oil imports are shifting from the sands of Saudi Arabia to the oilsands of Canada.
The below image shows how U.S. oil imports coming from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East have dropped drastically over the last 15 years:
Compare that to Canada, which now exports a whopping 1.37 billion barrels of oil to the U.S. each year.
If this trend continues, it could have big implications on foreign policy.
Can the United States continue to wean off its dependence on the Middle East? If so, Saudi Arabia’s role as a necessary “friend” in the region may dissipate over time, completely changing the composition of Middle Eastern geopolitics.
It also raises interesting questions from environmental and economic perspectives about Canadian oil, which mostly comes from the Athabasca Oilsands.
Bitumen is particularly expensive to produce, and the extra heavy oil already sells at a discount in American markets. With oil now hovering close to $40 per barrel, what does the future of Canadian oil look like ten years down the line? Further, will concerns over emissions and pollution stemming from the oilsands have any effect on production capabilities as time goes on?
Visualizing the Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
How much oil, coal, and natural gas do we extract each year? See the scale of annual fossil fuel production in perspective.
The Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
Fossil fuels have been our predominant source of energy for over a century, and the world still extracts and consumes a colossal amount of coal, oil, and gas every year.
This infographic visualizes the volume of global fossil fuel production in 2021 using data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
The Facts on Fossil Fuels
In 2021, the world produced around 8 billion tonnes of coal, 4 billion tonnes of oil, and over 4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
Most of the coal is used to generate electricity for our homes and offices and has a key role in steel production. Similarly, natural gas is a large source of electricity and heat for industries and buildings. Oil is primarily used by the transportation sector, in addition to petrochemical manufacturing, heating, and other end uses.
Here’s a full breakdown of coal, oil, and gas production by country in 2021.
If all the coal produced in 2021 were arranged in a cube, it would measure 2,141 meters (2.1km) on each side—more than 2.5 times the height of the world’s tallest building.
China produced 50% or more than four billion tonnes of the world’s coal in 2021. It’s also the largest consumer of coal, accounting for 54% of coal consumption in 2021.
|Rank||Country||2021 Coal Production|
|% of Total|
|#7||🇿🇦 South Africa||234.5||3%|
India is both the second largest producer and consumer of coal. Meanwhile, Indonesia is the world’s largest coal exporter, followed by Australia.
In the West, U.S. coal production was down 47% as compared to 2011 levels, and the descent is likely to continue with the clean energy transition.
In 2021, the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were the three largest crude oil producers, respectively.
|Rank||Country||2021 Oil Production |
|% of Total|
|#3||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||515.0||12%|
OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, made up the largest share of production at 35% or 1.5 billion tonnes of oil.
U.S. oil production has seen significant growth since 2010. In 2021, the U.S. extracted 711 million tonnes of oil, more than double the 333 million tonnes produced in 2010.
Natural Gas Production
The world produced 4,036 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2021. The above graphic converts that into an equivalent of seven billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to visualize it on the same scale as oil and gas.
Here are the top 10 producers of natural gas in 2021:
|Rank||Country||2021 Natural Gas Production |
|% of Total|
|#8||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||117.3||3%|
The U.S. was the largest producer, with Texas and Pennsylvania accounting for 47% of its gas production. The U.S. electric power and industrial sectors account for around one-third of domestic natural gas consumption.
Russia, the next-largest producer, was the biggest exporter of gas in 2021. It exported an estimated 210 billion cubic meters of natural gas via pipelines to Europe and China. Around 80% of Russian natural gas comes from operations in the Arctic region.
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