Pretty cool graphic from the Guardian in the UK. It helps to explain why the Brits think we Yanks are being less than honest with ourselves regarding our anger at BP.

The Brits have had a rather interesting response to the American Outrage over the GoM spill: With less than 5% of the world’s population, the US consumes 25% of the world’s oil production.

They believe we are being hypocritical in our outrage — if we were all that concerned, argues the Brits, we would not have been so profligate in our consumption, love affair with the SUV, and refusal to enact Pigou taxes on fuel consumption.

They raise a valid point.



Consider the per capita energy consumption of the US versus other nations:


I am not looking to exonerate BP; I have no doubt they were reckless and irresponsible in how they proceeded to drill in the Gulf of Mexico with Deepwater Horizon.

However, they were trying to fulfill our own reckless and irresponsible demands for cheap and plentiful energy. Anyone who is an energy consumer cannot ignore their contribution to what happened.

We can be a bit hypocritical in the US of A. We have $50k earners who bought $750k houses, then complained about Goldman Sachs; Walmart shoppers who buy 12 packs of tighty whiteys for $2.99 — then complains about job losses. Or the non voters (the majority of us) who complain about Congress. We energy consumers ought to realize that it is our demand that led to drilling in the GoM.

Personally, I try not to be hypocritical about my enormous carbon footprint (Denying global warming, ignoring the impact consumption has). I haven’t shown much willingness to change, but I won’t pretend there is no damage from my addiction to Horsepower.

Its sure is much easier to blame BP, than to accept resposibility for our own role in the spill…


BP energy statistics: the world in oil consumption, reserves and energy production

Category: Earnings, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

124 Responses to “Oil Consumption Around the World”

  1. drey says:

    You’ve missed the point completely, Barry.

    Are we complicit by virtue of our oil addiction in all oil spills and associated environmental problems? Of course.

    But the more you hear the more it becomes apparent that BP is a REALLY BAD ACTOR which circumvented safety regs and cut many corners – much more so than most its brethren in the oil biz. There’s a pattern of malfeasance here which cannot be ignored.

    In fact, it is increasingly apparent that we can and should put most of the blame on BP for this one. Your suggestion that we are unfairly piling onto BP is pure crap. They deserve every once of criticism they get and more. There will always be a ‘shit happens’ aspect with regard to deep water drilling, but in order to make your argument (that we’re all to blame) you need to use an example where standard operating procedures were not ignored in conjunction with reckless practices, etc. Just as appalling, of course, is the lack of proper regulatory oversight in this case.

    That said, have you seen that new BMW 1000 sportbike? Sweet….


    BR: My suggestion was the Brits, who have accused us of being hypocrites, have a point.

  2. NYC Mike says:

    BP and all those English pensioners can’t enjoy the profits that come from feeding the oil pig, and then complain about how much he eats.

    That’s pure bullshit.


    PS Even an ignoramus like me knew, pre-spill, that BP was one of the worst companies in the world, environmentally speaking. That’s why all the noxious BP “man in the street, we’re green” commercials used to really, really piss me off.

  3. alfred e says:

    @Transor re Self-insurance:

    It’s been a while since I was active in that field, but IMHO it’s safe to assume that regulation has only become weaker and weaker.

    Best guess, if I were BP, I’d set up an off-shore captive insurance company somewhere with very favorable laws like Bermuda or Cayman. And then I’d beat the tax and accounting rules to death to my advantage.

    Some might think regulating an insurance company that only covers claims from it’s parent seems unnecessary. But the fact is they were probably shrewd enough to keep the smaller first dollar coverage in-house, and pass the rest around the re-insurance industry at very favorable rates. Stuff much like AIG’s CDS stuff. Or Lloyd’s.

    It may be interesting to see how this plays out in the re-insurance markets and the impact.

  4. Nic says:

    To be honest if gasoline wasn’t so damn expensive in the UK they would probably be oil pigs too.
    It is triple the price of the USA –
    There is plenty of guilt to go around.

  5. dsawy says:

    Barry, you shouldn’t bother with buying a F-14.

    Go buy a Mustang or two. They’re far more fun to fly and they go up in value rather well as an investment, even if you just hangar them.

    And let’s be honest here: for a guy who loves high horsepower, turbojets just don’t sound as cool as a V-12 Merlin with short stacks. Nothing does, quite frankly.

  6. Transor Z says:


    According to this site there are only 150 currently airworthy:


  7. Marc P says:

    BR: “I won’t pretend there is no damage from my addiction to Horsepower.”


    Marc: It’s not horsepower, it’s how many miles you drive. If you live five miles from the office, a V-12 Murcielago is more environmentally friendly than driving a Prius to work from 30 miles away.


    BR: And when I am going in circles at Limerock or Sebring . . . ?

    Although you could say that is both HP AND mileage


    Exactly. The point is the amount total consumption, not how you do it. If you walk to the office and then spend your weekends at Sebring you’re still likely consuming less than the guy who commutes 40 miles each way in an average car. If you’re doing both, then yep, you’re a oil pig.

    FWIW, I disagree with the British point of view you cite. There is a difference between buying something that requires a wrongful act (buying an ivory necklace) and buying something that is required to be done responsibly but in a particular instance is done wrongfully (BP). I accept no responsibility for BP’s misrepresentations in formal regulatory filings that it could handle a spill of 10x more than the current level, when BP has made it obvious it can’t handle a spill 10x less than the current mess. I bear no responsibility for the sheer idiocy of creating a machine with no off switch.

    The BP disaster is one more example of how our ability to create bigger and bigger systems outpaces our ability to control them.

  8. herewegoagain says:

    With so many wanting to ascribe responsibility to the American people for BP’s spill, let me apply the dialectical method and offer an antithetical position. Perhaps the BRITISH PEOPLE are responsible. Perhaps if the British people addressed classism, manifested in an insular and inbreed upper class who are the only members of society with access to power, you would have more competent CEOs than Tony Hayward. And if the national acceptance of hooliganism that has apparently even infected corporate governance were challenged, perhaps corporate Britain might show a bit more responsibility towards the rest of the world. And when was the last time you bought anything with a British label that worked? Should we be surprised that a nation of bookworms and World Cup blathering halfwits can’t fix a leaky pipe? Perhaps if the British people closed their mystery novels, turned off their tellies and resisted the urge to rush off waving at THE QUEEN, and went to work repairing their decadent social structure, we all might see a brighter future. (Monty Python, of course, is to be excluded from this entire analysis.)

  9. Kralizec says:

    I wonder how the accounting of energy consumption is made. For example, if the Americans plow fields, plant wheat, water it, harvest it, and ship it to Nowheatia, is the energy required for these activities added to the Americans’ account or the Nowheatians’? The Americans have maintained a standing army in Europe and a navy all over the world. Is the energy consumed in such activities most reasonably laid to the Americans’ account?

    I wonder also how much of the difference in per-capita energy consumption among industrial countries can be accounted for by differences in total fertility, for bringing up new young adults seems very likely to be energy-intensive work. It seems fine that France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom use so little energy per capita, but if they have achieved such results partly through having kept total fertility below replacement, they seem to have a Pyrrhic victory.

  10. Nic says:

    Et Tu Brute
    Seriously herewegoagain why are you trying to make this a national issue?
    Even if everything you say is true do we really need to be lectured about it from the country that brought us Union Carbide (who have never cleaned up the Bhopal mess), Enron, Lehman, AIG, GM, mortgage securitization, etc.?
    Failure of corporate responsibility is an International problem. The cement well that is failing was built by Halliburton. The platform and rig was built Hyundai and owned and operated by Transocean. The operation was supervised by the US Govt (MMS) who exempted BP from an environmental study and in 2008 exempted them from a detailed blowout plan.
    But hey, if you want to make this a “British” issue go ahead.

  11. croatian says:

    as I can see Dutch are consuming more oil per capita than US. does it have anything to do with rotterdam being huge oil depository or is it really dutch consumption?

  12. Nic says:

    From the FT editorial:
    “In 1988, of course, the Piper Alpha platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum, a US company, exploded in British waters due to poor safety precautions, killing 167 people. It was the most deadly oil disaster ever. History leaves us no record of Margaret Thatcher urging her public to distrust American accents or to ignore the British constitution in the interest of vengeance against foreign corporations. This incident is virtually unknown to Americans. There has not been a single recounting of it in any US newspaper since the Gulf explosion.”

  13. herewegoagain says:

    @Nic Do you think someone who wrote a comment based entirely on blockheaded stereotypes, and then concluded by referencing the Python, may not have been serious? But your reaction was not surprising, nor was any of the information you took the time to report. Having traveled a good bit in Europe, I’m well aware of the extent to which America is hated and blamed for causing many/most of the world’s problems.

  14. [...] I was preparing this post a very large RV drove by the window and I found that Barry Ritholtz summed up his sentiment surrounding this data in a way that reflects my own understanding: I am not [...]

  15. Nic says:

    herewegoagain … You are not hated and I and a lot of British friends live in North America for a reason.
    That’s my point, if it was the other way around and this awful disaster was in British waters then I think the sentiment would be more anti-Big Oil than anti-American.

  16. DeDude says:

    call me ahab @ 8:41;

    If you could take a break from your hobby of constructing half a$$ed, half baked, “smart” comments and read what Berry said at the top – you will (hopefully) be able to understand that Barry actually is taking personal responsibility.

  17. takloo says:

    Canada is higher than the US… how about oil consumption as a ratio of GDP/capita ?…

  18. bear_in_mind says:

    A June 9, 2010 WSJ article sheds a little more light on BP’s self-insurance situation.

    I guess there’s a side-benefit that major insurers won’t collapse due to BP’s malfeasance, but the fact that BP’s insurance subsidiary is fronted through a unit of AIG does evoke a certain queasy feeling:

    BP is self-insured, which is another way of saying it isn’t insured at all except when it is required to be by law. Why? Because it doesn’t make economic sense for BP to pay the kind of premiums it would be charged to cover itself in what is fundamentally a risky business.

    BP uses a wholly owned subsidiary, Jupiter Insurance, for the insurance it has to take out, and the parent may be able to claim up to $700 million, Jupiter’s maximum payout on any one event, for the Deepwater Horizon spill. Jupiter’s business is 95% fronted through AIRCO, a unit of American International Group.

  19. alfred e says:

    @bear: Interesting. Thanks.

    Only $700 mil? Ooops. Unless they pass liability to others. Deep Horizon itself was worth almost that much.

  20. antisthenes says:

    No, it is not 1940, but US MfG still accounts for approx. one-sixth of world industrial output and for ~22% of world crude consumption, so the disparity is still not THAT great (and of course, all those newfangled SERVICE industries don’t require any juice to run their servers, their buildings, their logistics, or to move their people to and from work, now do they?)

  21. wrongwy says: — this same blog flogs the latest energy hog out of Germany. I preregistered for a Nissan Leaf. Put your money where your mouth is.

  22. Lugnut says:

    “We have $50k earners who bought $750k houses, then complained about Goldman Sachs; ”

    We also have $400K house being sold for $750K because of cheap interest due to a Congressional driven ZIRP fed policy. We also have developers who refuse to build a $250K house anymore. The fact that GS bet against their mortgage and continued solvency doesn’t make many friends (even contrary to advice they gave their own paying clients).

    “Walmart shoppers who buy 12 packs of tighty whiteys for $2.99 — then complains about job losses.”

    Tough to tell Joe 6PK who has seen his savings depleted, and his wages depreciated to not be a spendthrift at this stage of the game. Se le vie’

    “Or the non voters (the majority of us) who complain about Congress. We energy consumers ought to realize that it is our demand that led to drilling in the GoM.”

    That and a Federal Agency responsible for oversight who will rubber stamp any drilling proposal thrown in front of them.

  23. Oil spill: Here’s what you can do to help:

    Drive less.

    Yeah, OK, that’s pretty simplistic. But the point is: You and I are not helpless bystanders in this mess. Offshore drilling—especially deepwater offshore drilling—is not a simple project that BP and other oil companies get involved in for the giggles. They do it because there is a demand for the oil. If we were to completely and permanently halt offshore drilling in this country, it wouldn’t fix the problem. In 2009, 1.7 million barrels of oil were produced, every day, from offshore wells in United States. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to our 19.5 million barrel a day consumption, or even the almost 9 million barrels of gasoline we burn through every day.

    But that doesn’t mean offshore oil is inconsequential. If we don’t get it here, we’ll still get it from somewhere. And that has consequences, both for our pocketbooks and the environment. (Canada is the biggest exporter of oil to the United States. Eliminating offshore wells and increasing our use of tar sands is not exactly a healthy trade off.) Plus, as Jeff Vail of the Oil Drum blog told me, this model—complicated, risky drilling for a relatively small amount of oil—is the future. We simply aren’t finding a lot more of those big, easily accessed wells that fueled the past century.

    These are the facts. And there’s basically two ways of looking at them. One perspective assumes that U.S. oil consumption will only increase, that we must have this resource. Thus, we must have offshore wells. And lots of them.

    The other perspective: It’s time to actually get serious about reducing our oil demand. With a 9% reduction in national daily gasoline consumption, we could eliminate our need for offshore oil. At 22.4 miles per gallon, that’s just 4.2 fewer miles of driving, per person, per day.

    Bill Finch at The Nature Conservancy did this calculation back in May, but his numbers are a bit off from what I’m seeing on the Energy Information Administration site, so I’m going to do this again, real quick. I’ve made it easy to skip if your eyes glaze over.

    Here is where we start talking about statistics and numbers

    1.7 million barrels: Amount of oil produced by all offshore drilling in U.S. waters, per day.

    About 20 gallons of motor gasoline can be made from each 42-gallon barrel of oil

    So offshore drilling represents about 34 million gallons of gasoline per day.

    Total U.S. daily consumption of gasoline: 378 million gallons per day. This number only includes the kind of gasoline that runs the average car. Aviation and jet fuel, diesel fuel for commercial trucking, that’s all extra. We aren’t dealing with that here.

    To eliminate the need for the amount of gasoline represented by offshore oil, we have to reduce daily gasoline consumption by about 9%.

    US daily vehicle travel averages out to about 40 miles per person, per day. The average driver actually does a bit better than that: 29 miles per day. But, because we’re talking about national rates of consumption, we’re going to stick to that scale and talk about national mileage.

    22.4: Miles per gallon the average car gets in the United States.

    At 40 miles of travel, an American with an average car would use about 1.8 gallons of gasoline per day. A 9% reduction means taking that down to about 1.6 gallons, or 35.8 miles of travel. 4.2 miles per day less.

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