Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Global oil reserves and fossil fuel consumption

The world is showing no sign of weaning itself off fossil fuels: in the 28-year span covered by the BP data below, worldwide reserves of oil fell only twice – in 1998 and 2008.

Oil has been the world's fossil fuel of choice since the late 1960s and our taste for it doesn't seem likely to diminish in the short term. Oil companies are still keen to secure any undiscovered reserves while continuing to be a powerful lobbying presence. You may think that with pressing concerns over peak oil and global warming, the world would be slowly weaning itself off the energy-rich liquid. But in the 28-year span covered by the BP data below, worldwide reserves fell only twice – in 1998, and a decade later in 2008.

Opec nations control the lion's share, with 76% of the world's reserves. Interestingly, many of the Opec countries' proven reserves have barely changed in the past 20 years, despite massive exporting activity.

The largest percentage growth in oil wealth is in Vietnam, with a 39% surge in its proven oil reserves from 2007-08. This newfound wealth corresponds to 1.3bn barrels, which may sound like a lot, but would feed the world demand for less than three weeks (17 days) at 2008 levels of consumption.

Oil consumption fell by 0.29% from 2007-08, while its more polluting relation coal saw a 3% increase in its use. Reasons for coal's recent rise include the low price of emissions trading permits and the fuel's increasing promotion as key for 'energy security'.

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