How Much Oil Have We Used? What’s Left? Where Is It? Who is using It?

In the 1970s a massive energy crisis in the United States — and around the world for that matter — had people thinking that since there was no gasoline at the pumps, that must mean there was no oil left for which to drill. But according to Richard J Barnett and Ronald E Muller of the International Monetary Fund, two men who were writing at the time, there was no doubt in any experts’ minds as to whether or not there were oil reserves left. Obviously, there was.

Talking about the “Seven Sisters” — the world’s oil conglomerate of British Petroleum, Gulf, Mobil, Shell, Texaco, Exxon, and Chevron (Standard Oil of California) — Barnett and Muller wrote, “Because 300 billion barrels of the proven 500-billion barrel world oil reserves are in the Arab countries of the Middle East, the companies have been concentrating their development activities there.” 

In addition to their assertion that the Seven Sisters were responsible for allowing the energy crisis to occur — because they’d neglected production state-side to concentrate on their international interests, — Barnett and Muller also believed that big oil may have instigated the crisis. Barnett and Muller asserted the Seven Sisters did so in order to take control of market prices in the energy sector. “Because of their oligopolistic control over the world energy market, they have held the commanding power to decide how much oil is produced, where it shall go, the price to be charged, and where, through transfer pricing techniques, to declare their profits.”

Whether what happened 50 years ago was a conspiracy or simply a failure to appropriately manage resources is, at this point, irrelevant. A fact that is not, however, is that without question the world’s oil reserves contain far less oil than they did in 1974. And, the demand for oil has never been higher. And furthermore, the demand is expected to increase exponentially over the next 50 years as countries around the world further industrialize and the population boom continues to explode at unprecedented rates

Given the fact that there are more people than ever and that those people are reproducing faster than ever and a greater percentage of the world’s population is using fossil fuel powered vehicles to travel than ever before, one of the most critical questions humanity faces in the near future is, “when are we going to run out of oil? 

How Much Oil Does the U.S. Consume a Day? 

Whether Barnett and Muller were correct in their conclusions about a plot to drive up the price of gasoline, as oil is a finite resource, clearly, the amount of oil in reserve is less than it was 50 years ago, considerably less. In the 50 years since the oil crisis, the world has consumed more oil than it did in the 120 years prior to the crisis. 

In 1970, the world consumed 45.46 million barrels of oil. The United States consumed 15% of that total while producing 11.3% of it. In 1995, the world consumed 70.26 million barrels, the United States using 17.73% of that. Only 8% of the world’s oil was produced by the United States that year. In 2017, the world consumed 97.7 million barrels of oil. Of that, the United States consumed one third — almost 33% — while only producing 15.3% of the world’s oil. While the U.S. continues to consume more and more of the world’s oil supply, the amount of oil it contributes continues to decline. 

How Much Oil Does the Rest of the World Consume Per Day?

In 1970, China consumed 540,000 barrels of oil. With 818 million people, China had more than eight times the population of Japan at the time, yet consumed five times less the oil. Since then, however, China experienced an industrial revolution. And China’s population is growing at rates unlike those seen anywhere else in the world and at rates never before seen in history. 

In just 48 years, China’s demand for oil grew by 95%. In 2012, China consumed 10.22 million gallons of oil per day. To put that into perspective, the United States consumes 18.55 million gallons of oil per day. Forty years ago, in 1978, the United States consumed 18.76 million gallons per day.  That is a use rate reduction of 0.011%. 

China’s daily consumption of oil is expected to overtake that of the United States before the end of the decade. In a single year, from July of 2016 until July of 2017, China’s daily oil consumption increased by 690,000 BPD. In 2017, China’s, “Year-to-date data indicates an average growth of 550,000 BPD, more than double the 210,000 BPD growth recorded during the same period in 2016.”

But, China is not the only country in Asia with an alarming increase in oil consumption. In fact, the United States and all the Americas combined now consume less than China and the Pacific. And, while the Americas are expected to consume .02% more oil than in 2018, China and the Pacific are expected to increase consumption by more than 2%. 

Japan is a big contributor to those figures. A country with roughly 4% of the landmass of the United States and 9% of the population of China, Japan still manages to consume 4.71 million barrels of oil a day. Japan is the third largest oil consumer in the world, meaning Japan consumes more oil per day than India, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and South Korea all of which have larger land areas and many of which have larger populations.

So while the United States is the biggest culprit with respect to consumption, the fact of the matter is, of the top 20 gas consuming countries in the world, only the U.S. is on a downward trend with respect to consumption. Because the United States has the highest emissions standards in the world and produces the best emissions and fuel efficiency technology in the world, the amount of fuel the U.S. consumes annually is — again — less than it was almost 50 years ago.

Which Countries Produces the Most Oil and Which have the Largest Reserves?

In 2017, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. For the last decade, Russia and Saudi Arabia have remained number one and two with respect to oil production. However, according to, the U.S. is poised to surpass both Russia and Saudi Arabia in total oil production in 2018. “According to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), ‘this year promises to be a record-setting one for the US,” with the potential of surpassing the output of Saudi Arabia and Russia.’

The increase in U.S. oil production is due, in part, to the booming shale industry. “The IEA’s report suggests that U.S. crude production could exceed 10 million barrels a day this year, raising its outlook by 260,000 barrels a day.”

However, just because the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia produce the most oil does not mean that they have the world’s largest reserves. According to the 

“The largest remaining reserves are in Saudi Arabia, which has around 261.8 billion barrels, followed by Iraq, which has an estimated 112.5 billion. The United Arab Emirates has 97.8 billion and Kuwait has 96.5 billion, with the fifth largest reserve in Iran, which has around 89/7 billion barrels. In comparison, the North Sea has around 4.9 billion barrels remaining – a fraction of the reserves in the Middle East. New discoveries are being made, however, and Brazil recently discovered a new field with an estimated five to eight billion barrels. Such finds are rare.”

Nevertheless, “reserves” is a touch misleading because it only accounts for oil that can be extracted using traditional methods. In reality, Venezuela and Canada have two of the largest reserves left on earth. However, the oil is found in oil sands which makes them difficult to extract. Still, taking oil sand reserves into account, Venezuela has the largest proven reserve in the world with over 300,870 millions of barrels of oil, Saudi Arabia is second with 266,455 millions of barrels, and Canada is third with 169,709 million. 

Already a Liquid Fossil Fuel Shortage?

For a variety of reasons, oil production is already a more strenuous process than in the past and this is having global effects. For several years now, scientists have noticed the consequences. According to a 2015 article, “The effects are wide-reaching, affecting road, aviation and shipping – and sending the commodity cost of staple foods, such as rice and wheat, soaring. The fuel used to harvest the food has doubled over the last 12 months.”

Not only are countries with large deposits of oil — like Venezuela, Canada, Iran, and Iraq — struggling to produce enough oil to meet the World’s demands, oil reserves that traditionally produced large quantities in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are drying up. 

50 Years of Oil Left

In 2014, a major corporation published findings with evidence that the world only has 50 years of oil left, 53 at the time. “The world only has about five decades worth of oil left before we run out and descend into what I can only assume is a Mad Max-like state of anarchy, according to a new report. And it’s not from some alarmist environmental group — it’s from BP.”

But even though there is still oil in reserve, that does not mean that getting to that oil is as straightforward as it once was. Today’s petroleum engineers must figure out how to extract oil from shale and sand. Not only is the design of extraction more complex, the execution is as well. Extracting oil is more difficult than ever. And a more complex extraction process comes at a price. “What is clear is that oil is getting harder to extract, which is reflected in rising prices. A barrel worth $10 in 1998 now costs over $135.” 

 What Can We Do Now?

What we must do to extend the life of our oil reserves until we discover or develop a source of energy that can replace oil is no secret. Since the 60s and 70s the message has been the same: save fuel. That means doing one of two things or both. We must either drive less or produce — and use — technologies that allow us to get the most out of the fossil fuels we have left. 

Technologies like the Rentar Fuel Catalyst are critical for two reasons. First, the Rentar Fuel Catalyst reduces emissions dramatically. For basic emissions like carbon dioxide, the Rentar reduces emissions by 19.2%. For less common but equally harmful emissions — like ammonia and particulate matter — the Rentar reduces emissions by between 30 and 59 percent.  But just as important as reducing emissions is reducing fuel consumption by increasing fuel efficiency.

The Rentar Fuel Catalyst reduces fuel between 3 and 30 percent, depending on the type of engine, boiler, or furnace to which it is applied. While it is easy to assume that the consequences of emitting greenhouse gases are the biggest non-war related threat mankind faces, if we are not prepared for a world where fossil fuels are no longer available, the consequences will be extraordinarily dire. We must save as much oil as possible until the day comes when our world is no longer almost completely dependent upon it. 


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