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Oil is Dirt Cheap… Literally [Chart]



Oil is Dirt Cheap... Literally [Chart]

Oil is Dirt Cheap… Literally [Chart]

A barrel of oil is the same price as a barrel of “Scott’s Turf Builder”

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

In theory, a barrel of crude oil seems quite valuable.

It’s well-known, for example, that from one barrel of oil, a refinery can make 19 gallons of gasoline, 12 gallons of diesel, and four gallons of jet fuel.

That’s the equivalent of six billion joules of energy, or enough to power the average U.S. household for 1.8 months.

A Dirt Cheap Experiment

However, sometimes the laws of supply and demand work in mysterious ways. While it seems like oil has good intrinsic value, the glut of supply available to the market is so great that “black gold” has become very cheap.

Some would even say “dirt cheap”.

As a part of our landmark investigation, we went all the way to the Home Depot’s website to verify if this were actually true. The results were astonishing, and this information will definitely be helpful the next time I need to do some gardening.

PriceBags NeededCost per barrel
Loose bulk top soil$204.000.04$8.48
Miracle Gro$7.972.81$22.38
Scotts Turf Builder$6.973.74$26.09
Crude Oil (WTI)$31.72
Proven Winners$10.993.74$41.13

We started by going for the bulk stuff.

For only $135, it’s possible to buy 5 cubic yards of loose bulk top soil. That’s enough for 24 barrels worth, which seemed like a steal. The only downside was that it cost an extra $69 to schedule a dump truck to come by our house, which made it likely overkill for this experiment.

Next, we checked out a bag of Miracle Gro. It’s got the brand name reputation, and this particular bag had a user rating of four stars. At $7.97 for a two cubic feet, we’d just need just less than three bags to fill up a barrel. That works out to $22.38 a barrel. Not bad.

However, if we’re going to be serious about our dirt, we’re going to need something that promotes a strong root system and creates a prime seed-growing environment. We took a peek at Scotts Turf Builder, which is only $6.97 per bag. However, with only 1.5 cubic feet per bag, it’s going to take up over 3.7 to fill up our barrel, bringing our total cost to $26.09.

We’re now within $1.50 of oil’s 52-week low of $27.56.

The Winner

As we continued to shop online for dirt, a five-star gem caught our eye. The brand name was Proven Winners. How could we go wrong with that?

We took a look at the user reviews to be sure.

“I have a high-quality soil-test kit and tested this soil. It is very high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, so though it will be excellent for plants it is NOT a soil for starting seeds or potting up seedlings,” wrote a previous buyer.

Noted. We will not use it for starting seeds or potting up seedlings. We checked out the price, and for $10.99 per bag containing 1.5 cubic feet, we had our winner. It takes 3.7 of these to fill up our barrel, bringing our cost per barrel of this particularly good dirt to $41.13.

Unfortunately that’s about $10 more than a barrel of oil, but I guess we’ll hedge our bets.

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Visualizing California’s GDP Compared to Countries

California’s GDP makes the state one of the most powerful economies in the world. This graphic compares it to the GDP of 10 select countries.



How California's GDP exceeds ten select countries

How California's GDP exceeds ten select countries

California’s GDP Compared to Countries

Comedian Trevor Noah once said America is fifty little countries masquerading as one.

From an economic sense, this might carry some truth. When looking at the economic output of each state, especially the largest and wealthiest ones, they often compare to or even exceed the GDPs of entire nations.

To illustrate, this visual from StatsPanda looks at California’s $3.36 trillion GDP using data from The World Bank and compares it to 10 sizable country economies. Let’s take a closer look.

Sizing Up California’s GDP in 2021

California’s $3+ trillion GDP is an enormous figure in its own right, so it’s no surprise that it is larger than certain nations’ economic output.

But even when comparing with economies like Malaysia, Colombia, and Finland, all among the top 50 countries by GDP, California stands tall.

CountryGDP (2021 USD)
🇲🇾 Malaysia$372B
🇭🇰 Hong Kong$369B
🇻🇳 Vietnam$366B
🇮🇷 Iran$359B
🇵🇰 Pakistan$348B
🇨🇱 Chile$317B
🇨🇴 Colombia$314B
🇫🇮 Finland$297B
🇷🇴 Romania$284B
🇨🇿 Czechia$281B

What’s more, these 10 countries are quite densely populated, with a combined population of 653 million compared to California’s 39 million total.

A Closer Look At California’s Economy

What makes California’s GDP so vast and their economy so powerful?

Relative population is a big factor, as the state is the most populous in the U.S. with roughly 12% of the country’s population calling it home. But since California’s GDP makes up over 15% of the country’s economic output, there must be something else at work.

One key driver is the technology sector. Not only does Silicon Valley generate massive amounts of technological output, this also translates directly to wealth and economic activity. Many tech markets follow winner-take-all dynamics, bringing large revenues back to the state. In addition, smaller technology companies are frequently gobbled up by larger competitors, adding wealth back into the mix through M&A.

This might partly explain why California’s GDP is actually estimated to overtake Germany’s in the coming years and become the world’s 4th largest economy.

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