Let's play the word association game!
I will name the three most used fossil fuels and you tell me the first country that comes to mind
For me, the three countries that came to mind were (1) Saudi Arabia, (2) Russia, and (3) China. Whenever we talk about these types of fuel, these three always seem to be the first to come to mind because they are the largest producers. Overall, though, which of these countries has the most energy?
Obviously, not all energy sources were created equal, so let's even the playing field the best way possible by evaluating the country on its total thermal generation capacity, or BTU equivalency. The data for this was the most recent value given from BP's World Statistical Review of World Energy 2012 and is measured in quadrillion BTU. For a little perspective, one quadrillion BTU is about 173 million barrels of oil, enough to fuel American oil demand for 9.5 days.
5. Venezuela: 1,893.89 quadrillion BTU
While many may think that Saudi Arabia contains the largest oil reserves in the world, it's not true. Ever since the technology was available to extract heavy oil, Venezuela's proven reserves -- a measure of a resource that is both technically and economically recoverable -- have skyrocketed. Today, it is estimated that the country has 296 billion barrels of oil, 74% of which is Orinoco belt-heavy.
Even though the country has so much oil, it has struggled to keep up production growth and has asked for outside help. This week, Venezuela has signed financing deals with Chevron (NYSE:CVX), Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), and Russia's Rosneft that will total $5.6 to expand production. The country hopes to increase production from 3 to 5 million barrels per day by 2015.
4. Iran: 2050.17 quadrillion BTU
No matter how much the U.S. may enforce sanctions on Iran, it doesn't change the fact that it is sitting on some of the most expansive oil and gas reserves in the world. Of all the countries on this list, it is the only one where natural gas represents its most abundant resource, about 58% of total energy reserves.
In spite of tough sanctions on oil exports from Iran, China has been a big client. China imports about 500,000 barrels per day. It is far and away Iran's largest client.
3. China: 3055.17 quadrillion BTU
China is the worlds largest coal producer, by a long shot. Its production in 2011 represented 49.5% of the world's total coal output. The next closest producer, the U.S., was responsible for only 14.1% of global output. What is even more startling about this figure is that China still imported 192 million tons of coal in 2011.
The massive hunger for coal from China is not only driving its domestic market but has a profound effect on the U.S. market as well. Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) hopes to quadruple exports by 2020, and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) currently has the capacity to double its exports.
2. Russia: 6041.28 quadrillion BTU
Russia is a giant of natural gas, the national gas company Gazprom and Norway's Statoil (NYSE:EQNR) represent 40% of total natural gas imports in Europe, and that is just half of it. Back in March, Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with PetroChina's (NYSE: PTR) state-owned parent company to deliver 1.34 trillion cubic feet per year starting in 2018. The MOU is a long time coming -- the two countries have been working on this deal for more 15 years.
1. United States: 6414.07 quadrillion BTU
Bet you didn't expect to see us here, did you? If you knew how much coal we have, though, you wouldn't be surprised. The U.S. has 237 billion tons of coal. That is enough to fuel all electricity generation in the U.S. for almost 150 years. It also represents more than 90% of all fossil fuel reserves in the United States.
If you think that coal is going to die a painful death in the U.S. I'm sorry, but it just ain't going to happen.
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There should be one small caveat to these figures: They are from 2011. Since then, the U.S.' and several other countries' energy landscapes have been fundamentally changed because of shale gas and tight oil. The total proven reserves for the U.S. are in such flux that the Energy Information Administration hasn't updated our proven reserve figure in more than two years. As technology advances and we start to understand these new sources, these numbers are going to change. In fact, if technology advances enough, the U.S. could start to claim its trillions of barrels of oil as proven reserves.