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Chart: Which Countries Are Damaged Most by Low Oil Prices?

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Chart: Which Countries Are Damaged Most by Low Oil Prices?

Which Countries Are Damaged Most by Low Oil Prices?

This week’s chart looks at costs per barrel, exports, and total oil production.

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Oil is by far the world’s most-traded commodity, with $786.3 billion of crude changing hands in international trade in 2015.

While low commodity prices can hurt any major producer, oil prices can have a particularly detrimental effect on oil-rich economies. This is because, for better or worse, many of these economies hold onto oil as an anchor for achieving growth, filling government coffers, and even fueling social programs.

If those revenues don’t materialize as planned, these countries turn increasingly fragile. In the worst case scenario, an extended period of low oil prices can cause the fate of an entire regime to hang by a thread.

Which Countries are Damaged Most by Low Oil Prices?

This week’s chart explores three key pieces of high-level data on the oil sector from 2015: the cost of production ($/bbl), total oil production (MMbbl/day), and the world’s top exporters of oil ($).

The general effects of these factors are pretty straightforward:

  • Countries that have a high cost of production per barrel are going to find it tough to make money in a low oil price environment
  • Countries that are major producers or exporters tend to rely on oil revenues as a major economic driver
  • Oil producers that are major exporters also have to deal with another factor: the effect that low oil prices may have on their currencies

Here are some particular countries that are under duress from current energy prices:

Venezuela
Back in the Hugo Chávez era, things were better in Venezuela than they are today. Oil prices were mostly sky-high, and this enabled the socialist country to bring down inequality as well as put food on the table for its citizens. However, as the World Bank described in 2012, since oil accounted for “96% of the country’s exports and nearly half of its fiscal revenue”, Venezuela was left “extremely vulnerable” to changes in oil prices.

And change they did. Oil prices are now less than 50% of what they were when the World Bank wrote the above commentary. Partially as a result, Venezuela is having all sorts of problems, ranging from runaway hyperinflation to shortages in almost everything.

Venezuela’s cost per barrel isn’t bad at $23.50, but the country is the world’s ninth-largest oil exporter with $27.8 billion of exports in 2015. If oil prices were north of $100/bbl, Venezuela’s situation would be a lot less dire.

Russia
Russia is the world’s second-largest crude oil exporter, shipping $86.2 billion to countries outside of its borders in 2015. That’s good for 11.0% of all oil exports globally. Russia’s cost of production in 2015 was relatively low, at $17.30 per barrel.

But is declining oil revenue influencing foreign policy? It’s hard to say – but we do know that, historically, leaders have turned to nationalist projects during tougher economic times. In this case, Putin may have focused Russia’s national attention on Ukraine as a way to deflect from a less-than-rosy economic outlook.

Brazil
All is not well in Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff could be impeached by as early as next week.

Brazil is the ninth-largest producer of oil globally, pumping out about 3.2 million barrels per day. However, a bigger concern may be the cost of producing oil in the country. The production cost in 2015 was a hefty $48.80/bbl, among the most expensive of major oil producers.

The post-Olympics hangover will be a challenging one in Brazil, as it faces its worst economic crisis in 30 years. The largest country in Latin America had its economy shrink 5.4% in the first quarter of this year.

Nigeria

Nigeria, which will soon be one of the three most populous countries in the world, is also very reliant on oil revenues to prop up its economy.

The country has a $7 billion budget deficit due to lower oil revenues, and it recently also dropped its peg to the U.S. dollar on June 15th. The naira fell 61% against the dollar since then, wreaking havoc throughout the economy. Nigeria also recently lost its title of “Africa’s largest economy”, handing it back to South Africa.

Nigeria is the sixth-largest exporter of oil, with annual exports of $38 billion in 2015. Its cost of production is higher than average, as well, at $31.50 per barrel.

Canada

Canada’s economy is largely diversified, but it is also the world’s fifth-largest exporter of oil with $50.2 billion of exports in 2015. Costs are also high in the oil sands, and the average cost of production per barrel was $41.10 throughout the country.

The oil bust has dragged the energy-rich province of Alberta into a recession, and the Canadian dollar is also severely impacted by oil prices for multiple reasons. Alberta’s economy is about to have its largest two-year contraction on record, while the provincial government’s deficit has exploded to $10.9 billion.

Energy investment in Alberta is forecast to be about half of the total from 2014. Meanwhile, economic conditions elsewhere have also been impacted, as areas such as housing, retail, labor markets, and manufacturing have all felt the pinch.

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Energy

Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining

Bitcoin mining requires significant amounts of energy, but what does this consumption look like when compared to countries and companies?

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Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining

Cryptocurrencies have been some of the most talked-about assets in recent months, with bitcoin and ether prices reaching record highs. These gains were driven by a flurry of announcements, including increased adoption by businesses and institutions.

Lesser known, however, is just how much electricity is required to power the Bitcoin network. To put this into perspective, we’ve used data from the University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) to compare Bitcoin’s power consumption with a variety of countries and companies.

Why Does Bitcoin Mining Require So Much Power?

When people mine bitcoins, what they’re really doing is updating the ledger of Bitcoin transactions, also known as the blockchain. This requires them to solve numerical puzzles which have a 64-digit hexadecimal solution known as a hash.

Miners may be rewarded with bitcoins, but only if they arrive at the solution before others. It is for this reason that Bitcoin mining facilities—warehouses filled with computers—have been popping up around the world.

These facilities enable miners to scale up their hashrate, also known as the number of hashes produced each second. A higher hashrate requires greater amounts of electricity, and in some cases can even overload local infrastructure.

Putting Bitcoin’s Power Consumption Into Perspective

On March 18, 2021, the annual power consumption of the Bitcoin network was estimated to be 129 terawatt-hours (TWh). Here’s how this number compares to a selection of countries, companies, and more.

NamePopulation Annual Electricity Consumption (TWh)
China1,443M6,543
United States330.2M3,989
All of the world’s data centers-205
State of New York19.3M161
Bitcoin network -129 
Norway5.4M124
Bangladesh165.7M70
Google-12
Facebook-5
Walt Disney World Resort (Florida)-1

Note: A terawatt hour (TWh) is a measure of electricity that represents 1 trillion watts sustained for one hour.
Source: Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Science Mag, New York ISO, Forbes, Facebook, Reedy Creek Improvement District, Worldometer

If Bitcoin were a country, it would rank 29th out of a theoretical 196, narrowly exceeding Norway’s consumption of 124 TWh. When compared to larger countries like the U.S. (3,989 TWh) and China (6,543 TWh), the cryptocurrency’s energy consumption is relatively light.

For further comparison, the Bitcoin network consumes 1,708% more electricity than Google, but 39% less than all of the world’s data centers—together, these represent over 2 trillion gigabytes of storage.

Where Does This Energy Come From?

In a 2020 report by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that 76% of cryptominers rely on some degree of renewable energy to power their operations. There’s still room for improvement, though, as renewables account for just 39% of cryptomining’s total energy consumption.

Here’s how the share of cryptominers that use each energy type vary across four global regions.

Energy SourceAsia-PacificEuropeLatin America
and the Caribbean
North America
Hydroelectric65%60%67%61%
Natural gas38%33%17%44%
Coal65%2%0%28%
Wind23%7%0%22%
Oil12%7%33%22%
Nuclear12%7%0%22%
Solar12%13%17%17%
Geothermal8%0%0%6%

Source: University of Cambridge
Editor’s note: Numbers in each column are not meant to add to 100%

Hydroelectric energy is the most common source globally, and it gets used by at least 60% of cryptominers across all four regions. Other types of clean energy such as wind and solar appear to be less popular.

Coal energy plays a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region, and was the only source to match hydroelectricity in terms of usage. This can be largely attributed to China, which is currently the world’s largest consumer of coal.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge noted that they weren’t surprised by these findings, as the Chinese government’s strategy to ensure energy self-sufficiency has led to an oversupply of both hydroelectric and coal power plants.

Towards a Greener Crypto Future

As cryptocurrencies move further into the mainstream, it’s likely that governments and other regulators will turn their attention to the industry’s carbon footprint. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however.

Mike Colyer, CEO of Foundry, a blockchain financing provider, believes that cryptomining can support the global transition to renewable energy. More specifically, he believes that clustering cryptomining facilities near renewable energy projects can mitigate a common issue: an oversupply of electricity.

“It allows for a faster payback on solar projects or wind projects… because they would [otherwise] produce too much energy for the grid in that area”
– Mike Colyer, CEO, Foundry

This type of thinking appears to be taking hold in China as well. In April 2020, Ya’an, a city located in China’s Sichuan province, issued a public guidance encouraging blockchain firms to take advantage of its excess hydroelectricity.

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Energy

How Much Solar Energy is Consumed Per Capita? (1965-2019)

This visualization highlights the growth in solar energy consumption per capita over 54 years. Which countries are leading the way?

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How Much Solar Energy is Consumed Per Capita?

The long history of solar energy use dates as far back as 4,000 B.C.—when ancient civilizations would use solar architecture to design dwellings that would use more of the sun’s warmth in the winter, while reducing excess heat in the summer.

But despite its long history, we’ve only recently started to rely on solar energy as a renewable power source. This Our World in Data visualization pulls data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy to highlight how solar energy consumption per capita has grown in countries around the world over 54 years.

Solar Success: The Top Consumers Per Capita

Solar energy consumption is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh)—and as of the latest estimates, Australia leads the world in terms of highest solar energy consumption per capita at 1,764 kWh in 2019. A combination of factors help achieve this:

  • Optimal weather conditions
  • High gross domestic product (GDP) per capita
  • Tariffs incentivizing the shift to solar

In fact, government subsidies such as financial assistance with installation and feed-in tariffs help bring down the costs of residential solar systems to a mere AUD$1 (US$0.70) per watt.

RankCountrySolar consumption per capita
(kWh, 2019)
Solar’s share of total
(per capita consumption)
#1🇦🇺 Australia1,7642.50%
#2🇯🇵 Japan1,4693.59%
#3🇩🇪 Germany1,4093.22%
#4🇦🇪 UAE1,0560.77%
#5🇮🇹 Italy9953.40%
#6🇬🇷 Greece9363.08%
#7🇧🇪 Belgium8471.30%
#8🇨🇱 Chile8233.39%
#9🇺🇸 U.S.8151.02%
#10🇪🇸 Spain7972.34%

Source: Our World in Data, BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020
Note that some conversions have been made for primary energy consumption values from Gigajoules (GJ) to kWh.

Coming in second place, Japan has the highest share of solar (3.59%) compared to its total primary energy consumption per capita. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the nation made plans to double its renewable energy use by 2030.

Japan has achieved its present high rates of solar energy use through creative means, from repurposing abandoned golf courses to building floating “solar islands”.

Solar Laggards: The Bottom Consumers Per Capita

On the flip side, several countries that lag behind on solar use are heavily reliant on fossil fuels. These include several members of OPEC—Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela—and former member state Indonesia.

This reliance may also explain why, despite being located in regions that receive the most annual “sunshine hours” in the world, this significant solar potential is yet unrealized.

RankCountrySolar consumption
per capita (kWh, 2019)
Primary energy consumption
per capita (kWh, 2019)
#1🇮🇸 Iceland0No data available
#2🇱🇻 Latvia0No data available
#3🇮🇩 Indonesia<19,140
#4🇺🇿 Uzbekistan<115,029
#5🇭🇰 Hong Kong<146,365
#6🇻🇪 Venezuela121,696
#7🇴🇲 Oman284,535
#8🇹🇲 Turkmenistan367,672
#9🇮🇶 Iraq415,723
#10🇮🇷 Iran541,364

Source: Our World in Data, BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020
Note that some conversions have been made for primary energy consumption values from Gigajoules (GJ) to kWh.

Interestingly, Iceland is on this list for a different reason. Although the country still relies on renewable energy, it gets this from different sources than solar—a significant share comes from hydropower as well as geothermal power.

The Future of Solar

One thing the visualization above makes clear is that solar’s impact on the global energy mix has only just begun. As the costs associated with producing solar power continue to fall, we’re on a steady track to transform solar energy into a more significant means of generating power.

All in all, with the world’s projected energy mix from total renewables set to increase over 300% by 2040, solar energy is on a rising trend upwards.

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