Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Per Capita Oil Consumption Around the World

Following up on yesterday's post of global oil production per capita, the above graph shows oil consumption per capita for an illustrative selection of countries around the world (along with the world line in black for comparison).  You can see that the developed countries all had peak consumption in the 1970s, fell in the early 1980s, then were flat for a while and began declining again.  In Europe, that second decline began in the mid 90s and has been gradual.  In the US it started in 2005 and has been rather abrupt.

Things are never going to be quite the same again:

At least not in the US.  In Saudi Arabia, they are apparently having tons of fun with consumption having shot up to a staggering 40 barrels/person/year in the last decade.  Iran too has experienced sharp growth in consumption, albeit from a lower level. Though I imagine the beach parties aren't quite the same when the girls have to wear burqas.

To see the developing countries more clearly here's the same data with the y-axis blown up:

India, China, and Brazil have all been growing their per-capita consumption rapidly in recent years, unlike the West.  China and India still have considerable distance to go before reaching the world average, however.

Broadly speaking then, the developed countries have been cutting per-capita oil consumption and will be doing so further, in order to make room for consumption in the more rapidly growing economies of the developing world.  There are two ways for these cuts in consumption to happen: use oil more efficiently in the economy, or have less economy.  Since 2005, in the US, we are mainly taking the second approach.


cimon9999 said...

Nice work. However a more insightful graph would be to strip out electricity oil consumption as it was predominantly this low hanging fruit that was picked in Western economies and from '70-'00s, with little scope left for doing so now.

I appreciate the data on oil electricity consumption is difficult to get. But the EIA AER at least has the data for the US and the graph can be viewed here:

Fixed Carbon said...

Studart: Great! I will use this in my class.
Thanks, Don

Stuart Staniford said...


You make a good point but I also am unaware of the data required to do this globally.

jph said...

Saudi Arabia will be in a world of hurt when the Ghawar field finally gives up the ghost.

Paul W. said...

Stuart, I was curious to see the details of the graph but your color choices are pretty atrocious...

I'm partly color blind, but normally I can read graphs (including my own, which I do on a daily basis for my job in retail statistics). You've chosen a number of colors (brown/tan/greyish-pinkish/greyish-bluish/olivish) that I am absolutely at a loss at trying to decipher.

I literally can't tell the difference between the colors of the UK and US lines. You also made your strongest color (black) for Brazil, rather than the cumulative World demand. That seems to be a really questionable choice.

I hope you keep the coloration and color coding choices of your graphs in mind for the future, because it makes your datasets totally inaccessible beyond whatever analysis you provide if it is unreadable.



Susan Kraemer said...

Saudi Arabian oil use is for desalination. 70% of the country’s drinking water has to come from sea water. They are beginning to explore solar thermal.

KLR said...

World Development Indicators 2010 free download. I did a fair bit of analysis with the WDI 2009 - it had a breakdown of countries for electrical generation by source - oil, coal, gas, hydro, other. From this you can extract kb/d, at least in theory.

If anyone cares, here's my spreadsheet:
Electricity (from World Development Indicators 2009). The host is offline at the moment, nb.

How about a graph showing per capita using the figures for population that actually utilize oil, instead of tooling around rice paddies on bicycles? China could have "only" 400 million people in essence and still gobble down 10 mb/d no problem. I've never grokked the whole fixation on simple per capita when analyzing these matters.

Nick G said...


It seems to me that some kind of a variation on an EV (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, extended range EV, or pure EV) is the sensible answer to reducing and then eliminating oil consumption for personal transportation.

Consumer Reports said that a Prius was cost competitive at $3 gas; Kiplinger just said that the 5 year Total Cost of Ownership of a Chevy Volt is within $1,500 of a much inferior Chevy Cruze.

I only drive about 1,000 miles per year - I mostly use electric trains. Otherwise, I'd invest in something new and electric.

What do you drive?

Stuart Staniford said...

Nick G:

That's what I think too - see

for example.

As to what I drive: currently a Jetta TDI wagon. When I needed to buy a car early this year I was planning to buy a Volt but when they first came out the dealers were asking huge mark-ups on them so I got the Jetta TDI instead (half the price). Other than the Volt only the Prius has significantly better mileage amongst mainstream US vehicles. I can't stand the handling on Prius's. I'll probably trade in for a plugin hybrid at some point in the next couple of years.

Charles Pye said...

Can I get the source data from you for this graph? I'd like to run some analysis on historical oil consumption per person, and I haven't been able to find the data anywhere.