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 U.S. Energy Use in One Giant Chart
This interesting diagram breaks down all U.S. energy use by both source and industry, and everything that happens in between.
Visualizing U.S. Energy Use in One Giant Chart
If you feel like you’ve seen this diagram before, you probably have.
Every year, it’s assembled by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a research center founded by UC Berkeley and funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The ambitious aim is to chart all U.S. energy use in one Sankey diagram, including the original energy source (i.e. nuclear, oil, wind, etc.) as well as the ultimate end use (i.e. residential, commercial, etc.) for the energy that was generated.
U.S. Energy Use in 2018
According to the research center’s most recent published version of the diagram, U.S. energy use totaled 101.2 quads in 2018.
In case you are wondering, a single quad is equal to 1 quadrillion BTUs, with each quad being roughly equivalent to 185 million barrels of crude oil, 8 billion gallons of gasoline, or 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Here is how the recent figure compares to previous years:
|Year||U.S. Energy Consumption||% Fossil Fuels in Mix|
As you can see in the table, U.S. energy use has been generally increasing, eventually topping 100 quads per year by 2018. During this time, the total percentage of fossil fuels in the mix has dropped, but only from 81.6% to 80.2%.
Taking a closer look at the data, we can see that the largest percentage increases in the mix have come from solar and wind sources:
Energy use measured in quads (1 quadrillion BTUs)
Solar use has increased 122% since 2014, while wind jumped 46% over the same timeframe. Not surprisingly, energy derived from coal has fallen by 26%.
Dealing With the Rejects
One interesting thing about the diagram is that it also shows rejected energy, which represents the energy that actually gets wasted due to various inefficiencies. In fact, 68% of all energy generated is not harnessed for any productive use.
This makes sense, since gasoline engines are usually only about 20-40% efficient, and even electric engines are 85-90% efficient. Put another way, a certain percentage of energy is always released as heat, sound, light, or other forms that are hard for us to harness.
As electric cars rise in popularity and as modern gas-powered engines also get more efficient, there is hope that the amount of this rejected energy will decrease over time.
Mapped: Fossil Fuel Production by Country
These four animated cartograms show the nations leading the world in fossil fuel production, in terms of oil, gas, coal, and total hydrocarbons.
Fossil fuels exist as a double-edged sword for most countries.
On one hand, they still make up a dominant piece of the current energy mix, and oil is still seen as a crucial resource for achieving geopolitical significance. It’s also no secret that fossil fuels are a driver for many economies around the world.
But with governments and corporations counting carbon emissions and mounting concerns about climate change, reliance on these same fuels will not last forever. As attitudes and policies evolve, they will continue to see a reduced role going forward.
Visualizing Fossil Fuels by Country
So, which countries are pumping out the most hydrocarbons?
Today’s cartograms come from 911Metallurgist, and the animated maps resize each country based on their share of global fossil fuel production.
Below, you’ll see four cartograms that cover oil, gas, coal, and total fossil fuel production.
Crude Oil Production
The United States leads this category, producing about 18% of the world’s total oil:
Although the U.S. is the number one producer globally, it should be noted that the country doesn’t have the same quantity of oil reserves as other leading nations.
Weirdly, Venezuela has the exact opposite problem. The country has the most oil reserves in the world, but currently only sits as its 12th biggest producer.
Natural Gas Production
In terms of gas, the U.S. leads again with a 20% share of global production. Russia is also a gas powerhouse, with a 17.3% share.
After the U.S. and Russia, it’s a fairly steep dropoff in terms of natural gas production. Countries like Iran, Canada, Qatar, and China are the next most significant players, but they each only produce 4-6% of the global total.
Coal use may be on the decline, but China still produces a whopping 45% of the world’s coal.
China’s current relationship with coal is an interesting one.
Every year, coal has become less important in China’s energy mix – in 2011 it represented 70% of energy consumption, and by 2018 it had fell to 59%.
Despite this meaningful progress, China’s economy has grown so fast, that coal use has essentially held steady in absolute terms. Meanwhile, the country’s production of coal has actually grown slightly over the same timeframe.
Total Fossil Fuel Production
Finally, here is the sum of all three above categories, converted to metric tonnes:
The United States produces 20% of all global fossil fuels, with Russia and Iran rounding out the top three. After that comes Canada, which produces just under 5% of all fossil fuels globally.
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