Energy Supplies of the World - Petroleum, Coal, Gas, Uranium

Published Actual Energy Supplies, Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Uranium

Most recent Report data included here is from a published May 2010 Report (from the OGJ, the Oil and Gas Journal). The efforts at extracting Shale Gas in the United States by the process of what is called Fracking are not documented here, partly due to our concerns of the extreme environmental damages done in those efforts. Depending on whether that can be done on a large scale with minimal environmental damage, some of these results may be affected.

As a true scientist, I always have a very cautious attitude toward ALL 'new ideas', especially when those 'new ideas' are the source of a few giant corporations wanting to make billions of dollars of profits. Within good science, any 'new idea' is ALWAYS confirmed or denied by having COMPETITOR scientists be given access to the new technology, where they INDEPENDENTLY go through the logic and experimental research. When they get similar results to the inventor, then it is concluded that the new idea is GOOD! If they cannot confirm the claimed results, then the 'new idea' is considered to be either incomplete or faulty.

In recent decades, a few truly huge corporations are so wealthy and so powerful that they are able to get laws passed where they both deny any competitor any access to new ideas they come up with and also they create an absolute secrecy regarding any experimental results they might have. So, in several very profitable fields, those mega-corporations have felt absolutely free to do anything they wish! One of the scariest examples is Monsanto Chemicals, which has essentially been using the 300 million Americans as guinea pigs regarding their Genetically Modified Foods. There is no doubt that GMO has the POTENTIAL of wonderful advances. The problem is that in 1992, Monsanto ot the US government to agree to NEVER LABEL any GMO foods (because they got the government to agree that many people would not buy GMO foods if they KNEW from food labels). In addition, Monsanto got many very unique laws passed by the US Congress where they have absolute monopolistic control of that whole field of research and currently more than 90% control of ALL seeds used by all farmers in the US.

Again, if we had INDEPENDENT CONFIRMATION of the safety of specific GMO products, fine. But the entire safety of 300 million Americans is reliant on having to totally trust Monsanto to never make any mistakes and always be honest and honorable. But Monsanto has shown many times that when billions of dollars is involved, they rarely seem to be either honest or honorable. Similar situations exist in many other multi-billion dollar businesses. The really troubling fact is that no one seems willing to look to future safety when billions of dollars is sitting there! GMO is especially troublesome as researchers have found that laboratory animals often have DNA changes occur SEVERAL GENERATIONS AFTER SOME MODIFICATION HAS BEEN DONE IN AN EXPERIMENT. That seems to imply that THIRD-GENERATION or FIFTH-GENERATION HUMANS might (all?) have their DNA altered a hundred years later, due to some mistake having been done in some GMO alteration of tomatoes or other foods that we all (unknowingly) eat today. In the case of Fracking, the process has only been tried for around five years, and it IS already known that the horrific chemicals injected down into the Earth to more easily extract natural gas DOES seriously contaminate the aquifers down there. No one knows whether groundwater supplies of ten years from now or fifty years from now will be deadly or safe to drink! The actual scientific research HAS NOT YET BEEN DONE!

I personally find it rather scary that in 2005, the US government chose to let the companies that are doing Fracking to be Exempt from, that is, do not have to comply with the Clean Water Act. The companies got that legal Exemption Passed several years before the Public or the Senators or Congressmen had ever even heard of Fracking. Contributing to Political Campaigns from K Street with Lobbyists certainly works, but does this indicate that our Senate and Congress are willing to totally sell out even our health and safety regarding the water supply which we need to survive? Many people have noted that the Tobacco Industry denied absolutely everything that was critical of cigarettes, for decades, and they always got Congress to support them. The Asbestos Industry, the same, where massive amounts of asbestos STILL exist in America today! The Lead Industry defended against all challenges for decades for decades, including trying to destroy the career and credibility of a scientist named Needleman in the 1980s. After three years of vicious attacks, Needleman's work was proven true, and lead was then gradually removed from gasoline. There is still massive amounts of lead in paint in American houses today. In many of these cases, it eventually was learned that the Industries not only gave enormous amounts of money to specific Political campaigns, but they also gave huge amounts of money to (thousands of) scientists to make public arguments to try to justify their products. Wow!

I am merely a Research Scientist, and not anyone with political skills, so I am merely an observer regarding such things. But it sure seems really scary to me!

Politicians regularly seem to talk as though American supplies of energy are virtually unlimited. But many experts have said for a long time that is not true. Just what are the facts? Here are data from the Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ) and other respected and trusted sources, along with the rates that we are consuming each type of energy. The results are definitely interesting! And scary!

Those respected sources show that, without imported oil, the United States would completely use up ALL the known American oil reserves (including offshore) in slightly over FOUR years! The whole world figures to use up all the known world oil supplies in 43 years, or even less if world demand keeps rapidly growing. (That oil took hundreds of millions of years to form!)

The 2010 published Report, Statistical Review of World Energy June 2010, BP, includes two tiny graphics that show these facts, but they chose to not describe it in words. Near the bottom of page 28 is a graphic that shows that North America has around 8 years of natural gas left in known and suspected supplies. Near the bottom of page 43, there is a graphic which has no explanation, but their data shows that the world currently has known or suspected supplies of oil for about 46.7 years, natural gas for about 62.8 years and coal for about 119 years, which confirms the more clear calculations we provide here.

Apparently, we must keep in mind that that Organization represents and promotes the giant Corporations that mine and sell those specific energy products.

Their Report has a number of very tricky features. Rather than referring to the terrifyingly short 4 years and 8 years we have calculated for the United States, they leave that text out (which they used to nicely discuss in previous year Reports) and only have those crude visuals that mention all of North America. Canada definitely has large supplies of oil, natural gas and uranium, which the US has been buying for many years. With extensive study, it is possible to discover references to slightly longer time intervals of US supplies, but even those optimistic numbers only show 10.8 years for all known and suspected U.S. oil, 46.7 years for the world, and for all known and suspected U.S. natural gas, 11.7 years, and 62.8 years for the world.

It is such terrifying information, no wonder they go to so much trouble to keep anyone from understanding their Report!

It is also not very obvious to see that the US PRODUCED 593.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2009, but it CONSUMED much more, at 646.6 billion cubic meters! If it were not for the fact that Canada happens to produce 161 bil while only consuming 95 bil, where they have a LOT of excess gas that they can sell to the US, we really would have no way to use the amounts of natural gas we use today! Canada figures to need their own gas in coming years, and that will force us to CUT BACK around TEN PERCENT on the amount of natural gas we use today. Yet, politicians and T. Boone Pickens want America to change all vehicles over to burning natural gas instead of gasoline. Don't they KNOW that we already have to import truly massive amounts of natural gas for what we already do? And that even if we would drill hundreds of new wells, we would, at best, use up all the remaining natural gas under America within a handful of years? Is ANYONE paying attention? Since every Congressman and Senator has a staff of over 400 people working for him/her, shouldn't at least ONE of those 20,000 highly-taxpayer-paid staff members have learned this stuff?

Editor's Note: This information and the 2010 Report upon much of it is based, does NOT include a very controversial method that some mining companies have recently begun using to extract oil and natural gas, something often called Fracking. That method is amazingly destructive to the environment. They intentionally chemically contaminate enormous amounts of water which is then pumped down into bored wells, which is then followed by massive dynamiting. The process certainly releases a lot of natural gas that otherwise was unavailable, but it totally dynamites entire mountains out of existence, as well as intentionally polluting and contaminating rivers and land where pure water may be beyond ever recovering.

By late 2012, Fracking seems to won over everyone! News reports now claim that the US will become entirely energy self-sufficient (due to fracking) and they tell endless optimistic speculations. This is a process which was not even thought possible just a few years ago, and already we have bought into committing our future and the environment to the consequences of fracking.

My personal suspicion is that Fracking will be seen to cause such massive environmental damage, including medical effects on nearby residents, (within a year or two) that Laws will be tried to get passed to forbid its use. Really huge amounts of money will certainly be given to Politicians to make sure that such Laws do not Pass!

I wonder if we might become so totally dependent on the additional gas and oil obtained by fracking that society overlooks the destructive aspects of fracking. I guess the question is whether common sense or a pursuit of billions of dollars of profit will win that debate. I hope and trust that the right side will win, and that our societal lust for more and more energy might be somehow tamed. (Or solved by other energy sources which do not have so many terrible consequences, possibly including some of the concepts and devices described in these related web pages.) I also hope that Russia and Canada and the US will resist destroying the seafloor under the Arctic Ocean in their announced pursuit of oil well drilling there. At the moment, the various countries and companies are still arguing over who has control or ownership of those regions which had always been inaccessible under the North Polar Ice Cap.

I strongly encourage you to find some honest source of information on the fracking process, regarding the terrible chemicals injected into the Earth's water supplies along with the environmental consequences of dynamiting many mountains into non-existence. The people of North Dakota have apparently not read such information, and all they see is that they are now experiencing business prosperity specifically because of fracking.

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Please note that the assumed (not actually proven) reserves under Alaska which might be available by additional drilling and pipelines, is actually rather small! At the rate that the US is currently using up petroleum (around 7 billion barrels per year), it is generally believed by experts that only a few months of true benefit would (will) occur by removing all the oil under Alaska!

Somehow, logic does not seem to be applying! Politicians in TV interview shows NOW (April 2006) are insisting that by digging up Alaska for additional oil, "we may get a FULL million barrels every day from those DOMESTIC sources". Sounds good, huh? Except that (a) it would take at least TEN YEARS to actually start receiving that oil; and (b) the 7 billion barrels of oil that we currently use means 22 million barrels per day! See the strangeness? A BIG and expensive production to extract all the possible oil from under Alaska and under the oceans around it, MIGHT provide ONE million barrels per day! ONE-TWENTIETH of our CURRENT usage! Or 5%! And that is only if the optimistic opinions of oil there are true!

On top of that, the famous Alaska Pipeline has been regularly leaking in recent years, due to massive corrosion and extreme lack of maintenance. Whether anyone wants to spend more billions to repair or replace the Pipeline would be another consideration that no politician seems interested in considering!

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In any case, Alaska oil MIGHT represent a single year of oil supply for the US. The thousands of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico might represent about three years supply. We have already sucked out virtually all the oil under Texas and Oklahoma and other States. And whether or not States or the government gives in and lets BP and the others drill off the Atlantic coast and off California, another couple years supply. Notice this is not saying CENTURIES, but YEARS! YOU WILL see much of the American transportation system shut down within a handful of years! Why can't someone PLAN AHEAD???

Other politicians and leaders brag about being able to grow American corn and then process it into Ethanol, as being the glowing solution to all the future energy needs, and the ending of dependence on imported supplies of energy. A discussion below notes that with all currently known methods of processing corn into Ethanol, MORE external (meaning imported) fuel is required in that processing than the Ethanol will eventually be able to provide! Spokespeople seem to happen to forget to mention this fact, that manufacturing Ethanol is a losing proposition! They also seem to forget to mention that we are currently (2007) using up around 1/5 of all the corn grown in the US for making Ethanol (which is already endangering the supplies of food and livestock feed from corn), to produce only enough ethanol for around 1/40 of what we consume as gasoline in our vehicles. What additional corn do they expect to grow and process into Ethanol? Bush has announced that 1/3 of all US cropland will be used for ethanol production in 2008. We have to hope that we don't have any storms or floods that affect the remaining cropland, as we all enjoy being able to eat food!

Many people who have e-mailed in to criticize THIS presentation (which, I note, is all OFFICIALLY PUBLISHED figures!) instantly say that by tapping Alaskan oil, the US will be totally independent of foreign oil for many decades! Those people have been given VERY wrong information! The huge (and expensive) Aleyska Alaskan pipeline has already nearly depleted all the certainly known supplies, in around 30 years. Was that in supplying 7 billion barrels per year? No! That existing pipeline had originally been operated at near its capacity, of around a million barrels per day. In 365 days, that is 0.365 billion barrels per year. This confirms the FACT that Alaskan oil has only supplied a maximum of AROUND FIVE PERCENT of American petroleum consumption (0.365 / 7.0) and even at that, we have already used up nearly all the known oil supplies. (The oil flowing through the existing Alaska Pipeline has greatly dropped off in recent years, as wells have gone dry. In recent months, only around 0.4 million barrels had been flowing per day, less than half full, prior to it being completely shut down due to massive corrosion [Aug 2006]).

See the reality? In the 30 years that oil has been massively pumped out of Alaska, the pipeline has NEVER had the capacity to carry even 10% of the country's needs. So if people truly think that Alaska is some sort of magical solution to the vast importation of petroleum, then they will need to build around 20 more pipelines, to CARRY IT across Alaska to Valdez! But even if they did that, where we could obtain our entire 7 billion barrels of consumption from there, even really optimistic estimates do not indicate that there is much over 7 billion barrels of oil still in the ground under Alaska. So we would use it all up in just ONE YEAR!. Actually less, because more realistic scientists believe there is only 2 or 3 billion barrels of oil still under Alaska, which we would use up in 3 or 5 months! Why doesn't anyone see how foolish it would be to invest enormous amounts of money to build more giant pipelines and to drill more oil wells? Separate from all the environmental issues! It is just a stupid idea! But all the politicians make it sound that, by permitting oil drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, ALL our oil problems would be solved. Not even close! There are certainly people, especially the oil companies, that would/will make a fortune, but for virtually no actual benefit. It might be different if there were truly large reserves of oil under Alaska. But we have already removed much of them and already burned them! It's like wanting to build an impressive gate, AFTER all the horses have escaped! But the American public has been greatly convinced that this is some kind of brilliant idea! Only for those who will make fortunes!

In 2005 and 2006, it became very popular for politicians to give speeches regarding spending hundreds of billions of (taxpayer) money to build a hundred new nuclear power plants. Their research staffs must not have informed them that the US closed its last Uranium mine more than ten years earlier, as we have already mined essentially all the Uranium under the United States. The official government data presented below shows that we imported around 92% of all the Uranium used in our nuclear power plants in 2002. It would have been even higher except that we have been de-commissioning nuclear weapons and degrading the warheads into reactor fuels!

(Sorry for the Editorial comments! But even as an impassionate scientist, there are some truly foolish ideas being promoted, which have virtually no relationship to reality!)

Even if enormous amounts of oil were now discovered in Alaska or under the oceans around it, we still have no obvious way to transport enough out to provide more than about 5% of our current needs. Yes, the newly drilled oil might be able to provide that 5% of our needs for 10 or 20 years. Is it really worth destroying a Wildlife Refuge and potentially contaminating large areas, just to (briefly) provide 5% of our oil needs? No one seems to ask that question. I am not necessarily expressing an opinion here, only asking a logical question.

Those published sources also show that, without imported natural gas, the United States would completely use up ALL the known American natural gas reserves in slightly over EIGHT years! The whole world figures to use up all the known natural gas supplies in 67 years, or even much less since world demand keeps rapidly growing. For the United States, this is especially catastrophic, since natural gas is a difficult product to transport long distances. It is certainly possible to produce the methane that is the primary component of natural gas, but the current techniques tend to use up a lot of other fuels in the process.

As a result of a vague impression of shortages of those resources, and the current necessity of importing around 63% of the oil we Americans use up, and even more in the future, politicians have recently started talking about building a lot of new nuclear plants. There are only 103 now operating, and they produce around 20% of the electricity used in the United States.

The (published) figures reprinted below show that we have already mined the vast majority of Uranium under the United States, and we now only have enough SPECULATIVE uranium left for around 4 years of current usage rates in generating electricity and even that is incredibly optimistic. In 1995, the DOE (Department of Energy) official report on existing supplies of American uranium indicated that the TOTAL of the Proved Reserves and the Estimated Additional Resources, as defined in that Report, could provide a total of around 3,000 tons of U3O8. Given THAT number, and knowing that we use up around 28,000 tons of U3O8 each year, that is barely ONE MONTH'S supply! The remaining speculative uranium under the United States would be very hard to get to to mine, and it would therefore be many times more expensive than any Uranium from anywhere else.

If politicians think they want to use American taxpayer money to build a lot of new nuclear plants, maybe they should review the facts presented below. Also some other facts, from their own Government Reports! Such as that in 2002, 57.3 million pounds of nuclear ore was processed and loaded into US reactors; however only 2.34 million pounds were provided from domestic sources, with 52.7 million pounds being imported! (The remainder came from stockpiles, mostly from de-commissioning nuclear weapons into nuclear fuel.) 92% of the Uranium we used in 2002 was imported!

There are very good reasons for that! In 1975, published reports suggested that the United States had 581 thousand metric tons of Reasonably Assured and another 962 thousand metric tons of Estimated Additional (US ERDA Report, Jan 1977), for a total of 1,543 thousand metric tons. In 2005, that total is now 102 thousand metric tons, of which NONE is "Reasonably Assured". Note that we have already mined over 93% of all the Uranium in the United States, and 100% of that that is easily minable. And these figures are the more recent INFLATED values including more speculative sources, remembering that the DOE Report of 1995 indicated a TOTAL of 3,000 tons of economically viable U3O8.

In 1990, there were 39 Uranium mines operating in the US, producing 8.9 million pounds of Uranium per year. By the year 2000, that was down to 10 mines producing 4.0 million pounds, and by 2003, down to 6 (mines) producing 2.344 million pounds! Is that scary? Worse, the 6 "mines" are not mines at all, but operations that recover Uranium from various sources, specifically de-commissioned nuclear warheads! There are NO operating Uranium mines in the US during these past several years!

Not one pound of Uranium has been mined in the US for more than 20 years, with over 92% of the Uranuim used in our nuclear powerplants being imported. Much of the rest came from de-commissioned nuclear warheads that have been degraded into fuel-grade material.

Again, the world is better off in seeming to have sufficient Uranium for around 52 years at current usage rates.

Coal seems to be the only fuel that we have in abundant quantity. Does this mean that American society will soon need to revert to that of 150 years ago, when coal powered industry?

More significantly, why are NO political leaders even mentioning any of this? Their good friends, and generous political donors, the giant companies that mine and process and sell these resources probably don't want us to get scared over such things, but shouldn't they be accountable to us? It is my hope that SOMEONE reviews these figures (and then confirms that they are accurate) and starts to try to do something. And rather that simply relying on this web-page for the data, you can find these figures on Industry and government web-pages. What could be done? Good question! But the United States seems hurtling toward a day, possibly within TEN YEARS, where there will be a crisis of every type of energy supply. How will American industry compete in the world market then? And what will happen to the high-energy-maintenance lifestyles of Americans?


It is also useful to look at the energy sources used to create our electricity. We will use (official published) figures for the year 1975 and then 1999, for comparisons.

In 1975, the US used up a total of 71.1 * 1015 Btus of energy supplies, of which 20.1 * 1015 Btus was consumed to make our electricity, roughly 28% of the total.

In 1999, the US consumed a total of 96.6 * 1015 Btus of energy supplies, of which 39.4 * 1015 Btus was consumed to make our electricity, roughly 41% of the total.

Electricity consumption essentially doubled between those times, but the consumption of usage for other purposes nearly stayed the same! Traffic increased a little, but vehicles are slightly more efficient, so not much change there. Enormous numbers of factories in the US have closed down, where products are now being manufactured in China and elsewhere, so that usage has actually dropped (but for a bad reason!)

Here are the specific energy sources used to create that electricity:

1975 Energy Use for Electricity Production
SourceAmount (* 1015 Btus)Percent
Natural Gas3.115.4

1999 Energy Use for Electricity Production
SourceAmount (* 1015 Btus)Percent
Natural Gas6.115.4

We can see some interesting things from this data. The contribution from hydroelectric has stayed relatively constant, because there are really no more large rivers that can be dammed in the US. In very recent years, that contribution has started going down, because the continued massive usage has caused the water level in most reservoirs to have greatly dropped. For example, Lake Powell of the Glen Canyon Dam has been around 120 feet low for the past couple years (2004 and 2005). Lower water level means that even more water must be released to generate a constant output that is demanded (by consumers AND by Congress!) because the lower water has less potential energy to give up.

Usage of petroleum to generate electricity has greatly dropped off, a good thing! But consumption of natural gas in generating electricity nearly doubled. The US has massive amounts of coal, so it is good that the usage of coal had doubled during that period.

In 1975, nuclear power was really just getting going on a large scale, so the 1999 figures are much higher. However, SINCE 1999, the US has essentially run out of Uranium (figures below) and so that has been dropping back off recently.

Note that the OTHER category, even with massive government financing, only got up to producing 2.4% of the electricity, by a total of wind, solar, biomass and geothermal facilities. Considering the enormous financial investments in such things, the performance is distressingly minor. AND is likely to never become really significant!


Because of the SCALE of the rate that we are using up all those resources. Politicians do not seem to comprehend that! Consider this: In 1999, JUST to make about 15% of our electricity, we (permanently) used up about 6,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas! That amount is hard to comprehend! It means that, every year, around 90,000 cubic feet of natural gas are used up for EVERY FAMILY in the US! For the record, even families that heat their homes with natural gas, in cold climates, generally use far less than that every year! (In 1975, the TOTAL natural gas consumption was around 19.8 * 1015 Btus, so usage for making electricity was less than 1/6 of that. In 1999, that production was nearly the same 19.9, but we had to import more than 15% additional to fill our needs!)

Important Note

Politicians seem confident that Alternate fuels will easily provide for all of America's future energy needs. If it were true that there were already available 50,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas to replace the energy content of one year's usage of 20,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas, fine! (Assuming that all that equipment could be altered to use hydrogen as a fuel!). But there is an ENORMOUS problem! Hydrogen gas does NOT exist naturally! It immediately chemically reacts to create compounds, specifically water.

In order to GET hydrogen then, we must SPEND ENERGY to dissociate water! And that process is not very energy efficient!

The point here is that "Hydrogen" cannot correctly be seen as a "natural resource" at all. It must be MANUFACTURED, by first using up some OTHER source of energy, usually electricity to dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Even if some dreamer imagines that hydrogen would someday provide 20,000,000,000,000,000 Btu that is now supplied to us each year by natural gas, they need to give some thought to the fact that at least four times that amount of energy needs to be used in first getting the hydrogen. In other words, Hydrogen CANNOT be any ENERGY SOLUTION for the future. Instead, it should be looked at as a higher-tech version of a battery, which also requires some external source of electric power to charge it up. Battery-powered or hydrogen-powered vehicles might sound really exciting to the public and to politicians, but that is only because they have not yet thought through the ENTIRE picture, specifically of WHERE that source energy would come from!

So, sadly, the future will NOT be able to rely on either hydrogen or batteries to solve long-term problems. In a short-term, sure, they will look very impressive to reporters and car-buyers! But, in the bigger view, they are a poor idea, and a waste of a lot of effort that really needs to be directed more to actually finding solutions!

There is actually a VERY obvious area where research should be done. In fact, it should have been occurring for the past 30 years! It turns out that the generation and distribution of electricity is HORRIBLY inefficient! Of all the energy that is in the source fuel which gets used up, amazingly, only around 13% of it actually arrives at our electrical outlets to be used! ONE-EIGHTH! What happens to that other 87%? Virtually ALL of it winds up heating the atmosphere, being closely related to global warming! In a link down below, there is a discussion of efficiencies of different types of electrical powerplants, all of which are generally in the 30% overall efficiency range. From there, that electricity gets sent the many miles to you through wires, which all heat up due to the massive amounts of electricity run through them. They are essentially all like those hot wires inside your toaster!

People have ripped into me for many years regarding this statement, that 60% of the electricity put INTO the power-grid at the power plants, is LOST, and that only 40% of the electricity makes it through the power-grid. So it is refreshing to see that IBM has started running TV commercials in Jan 2009 that start off announcing that "more than half" of electricity is lost in the power-grid! Maybe people will be willing to believe IBM about such statements!

So, what I see as the saddest aspect of this whole mess is that we could have greatly improved things at least 30 years ago! There are relatively easy ways to improve the 13% delivery up to nearly 50% delivery, so we would only have to be using up around 1/4 of the precious resources we now do in making the same amount of electricity. The hurdle is that the equipment to do that is very expensive! Utilities have never wanted to have to make such massive investments, because they have never needed to or been forced to do so. The most obvious improvement is to simply stop dumping enormous amounts of heat with cooling towers and the like, and instead, using some more expensive "low pressure" steam turbines to remove much of the heat from that otherwise wasted heat.

YOU may already be using a similar technology! Home central furnaces around 1960 were around 60% efficient, with the rest of the heat going up the chimney. By 1980, better heat exchangers and designs had gotten that up to around 80%. But then a new technology was introduced (actually, an OLD technology, but first applied to home furnaces!), the concept of a condensing furnace. Such furnaces do not even need a conventional chimney, but simply a plastic PVC pipe. Millions of homes already have these high-efficiency furnaces, which have around 97% or 98% efficiency.

THAT general idea could be applied to electric powerplants! And, even after the Utility had squeezed out every bit of electricity they could create, the low-grade heat could even then be used in many ways. For example, at least one electric powerplant in Germany has been providing free-heating for hundreds of nearby homes!

As to distribution electric lines, it may be possible to put thermal insulation around each wire, to reduce losses. This is done when such lines have to run in underground conduits, so the technology already exists.

There are certainly MANY solutions. But people have to start addressing the RIGHT questions, in order to find them!

Around 1981, I mentioned to some fellow Physicists these ideas regarding greatly improving the thermal efficiency of electric power generation and distribution. I was laughed at, and told that I was being very foolish for thinking about such things! I eventually realized that they simply assumed that the Designers of such equipment had already made everything as efficient as it should be! They were wrong in that assumption!

The Existing Energy Resources

Regarding each type of fuel, no one can absolutely say the precise amount of a fuel that is still in the ground, still not mined. Modern technological tools like sonar can provide good guidelines as to where the fuel is, and how much of it is there, but until it is actually brought up to the surface, any numbers regarding future quantities must be estimates. Sometimes, two different estimates are provided, one for "proven reserves" which are usually the extents of known resources, and the other being "future discoveries", based on many assumptions regarding advances in technology. The first value is probably pretty reliable, the second is often rather speculative. We have generally tried to avoid the speculative "guesses" as to "future discoveries", mostly because researchers have already used satellites and many other technologies to examine every portion of the Earth, and large undiscovered quantities of any of these energy resources seems relatively unlikely.

We will consider each primary energy resource separately here, oil, natural gas, nuclear, coal, and hydroelectric.

Note: Some of the tables have base quantities of "1000 million". In other tables, we use the term "billion" for that same quantity. The BP tables use "1000 million" because in Britain, the WORD "billion" means a million million, what Americans would call a trillion. So, in any cases where the words billion or trillion are used here, it is in an American usage, of meaning 109 and 1012. We apologize for the possible confusion in Britain.


Oil Supply: proved oil reserves (in 1000 million barrels)

rank country end
of total
1. Saudi Arabia 168.0 260.3 262.8 262.7 262.7 264.1. 19.8%
2. Iran 58.3 92.9 99.5 133.3 132.5 137.6 10.3%
3. Iraq 30.0 100.0 112.5 115.0 115.0 115.0 8.6%
4. Kuwait 67.9 97.0 96.5 99.0 99.0 101.5 7.6%
5. United Arab Emirates 30.4 98.1 97.8 97.8 97.8 97.8 7.3%
6. Venezuela 19.5 60.1 76.8 77.2 77.2 172.3 12.9%
7. Russian Federation na na 61.0 71.2 72.3 74.3 5.6%
8. Kazakhstan na na 25.0 39.6 39.6 39.8 3.0%
9. Libya 20.3 22.8 36.0 39.1 39.1 44.3 3.3%
10. Nigeria 16.7 17.1 29.0 35.3 35.3 37.2 2.8%
11. USA 36.5 33.8 30.4 29.4 29.4 28.4 2.1%
12. China 13.3 16.0 17.9 17.1 17.1 14.8 1.1%
13. Canada 8.7 11.2 18.3 16.8 16.8 33.2 2.5%
14. Qatar 3.6 3.0 13.2 15.2 15.2 26.8 2.0%
15. Mexico 47.2 51.3 26.9 16.0 14.8 11.9 0.9%
16. Algeria 8.2 9.2 11.3 11.8 11.8 12.2 0.9%
17. Brazil 1.3 4.5 8.5 10.6 11.2 12.8 1.0%
18. Norway 3.6 8.3 11.3 10.1 9.7 7.5 0.5%
19. Angola 1.4 1.6 6.0 8.8 8.8 13.5 1.0%
20. Azerbaijan na na 6.9 7.0 7.0 7.0 0.5%
21. Sudan - 0.3 0.6 6.3 6.3 6.7 0.5%
22. Oman 2.5 4.4 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.6 0.4%
23. India 2.7 5.6 5.3 5.7 5.6 5.8 0.4%
  World 667.1 1,001.1 1,115.8 1,188.3 1,188.6 1,332.4 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy June 2005 BP, and also June 2010 BP
note: a barrel is equal to 159 litres (42 gallons).

Oil Consumption (in 1000 million barrels)

(Interestingly, the consumption is published in different units, millions of metric tonnes rather than thousands of millions of barrels or of gallons. It almost seems that there is a desire that we do not relate the rate at which we are using these resources to the supplies! We have converted those published figures into billions of barrels, such that they might be directly compared with the known supplies in the table above.

rank country 1980 1990 2000 2003 2004 2009 percent of total
1. USA 5.821 5.731 6.579 6.687 6.873 6.820 21.7%
2. China 0.645 0.808 1.687 1.952 2.262 3.148 10.4%
3. Japan 1.742 1.816 1.873 1.824 1.770 1.605 5.1%
4. Russian Federation na 1.830 0.905 0.914 0.942 1.057 3.2%
5. Germany 1.080 0.933 0.951 0.917 0.906 0.884 2.9%
6. India 0.232 0.424 0.778 0.829 0.874 1.162 3.8%
7. South Korea 0.177 0.363 0.756 0.774 0.768 0.849 2.7%
8. Canada 0.660 0.585 0.646 0.703 0.730 0.801 2.5%
9. France 0.806 0.655 0.622 0.682 0.689 0.669 2.3%
10. Italy 0.718 0.686 0.685 0.675 0.656 0.577 1.9%
11. Mexico 0.357 0.496 0.628 0.614 0.625 0.710 2.2%
12. Brazil 0.403 0.428 0.629 0.601 0.617 0.878 2.7%
13. United Kingdom 0.592 0.608 0.578 0.578 0.592 0.588 1.9%
14. Saudi Arabia 0.219 0.383 0.504 0.548 0.583 1.027 3.1%
15. Spain 0.383 0.357 0.513 0.553 0.569 0.545 1.9%
16. Iran 0.227 0.345 0.448 0.511 0.537 0.635 2.2%
17. Indonesia 0.144 0.218 0.368 0.395 0.401 0.491 1.6%
18. Netherlands 0.283 0.257 0.306 0.323 0.339 0.388 1.3%
19. Thailand 0.085 0.144 0.255 0.293 0.320 0.356 1.1%
20. Taiwan 0.144 0.196 0.292 0.301 0.304 0.370 1.2%
21. Australia 0.218 0.232 0.276 0.281 0.281 0.343 1.1%
22. Belgium & Luxembourg 0.195 0.182 0.248 0.267 0.279 0.285 1.0%
23. Singapore 0.070 0.171 0.244 0.248 0.279 0.366 1.3%
. World 21.804 23.012 25.939 26.694 27.613 30.688 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy 2005, BP and 2010 BP
note: based on a worldwide average gravity: 1 metric tonne = 7.33 barrels.
note: a barrel is equal to 159 litres (42 gallons).

There are two important considerations to note in this data. Using the 2004 data, note that the United States had 29.4 billion barrels of proven reserves, and that we were using oil up at 6.873 billion barrels per year. This indicates that, without any imported oil, we would use up all of the proven reserves in just 4.28 years! FOUR YEARS usage is all we have, ever!

Using the 2009 data, note that the United States had 28.4 billion barrels of proven reserves, and that we were using oil up at 6.82 billion barrels per year. This indicates that, without any imported oil, we would use up all of the proven reserves in just 4.16 years! FOUR YEARS usage is all we have, ever!

The other is the same thing for the world. The world proven reserves (2004) were 1188.6 billion barrels, and that the world was using oil up at 27.613 billion barrels per year. This indicates that, even if future use does not increase in China and the other developing countries, all of the known oil reserves in the world will be used up, gone, in just 43 years! The world proven reserves (2009) were 1332.4 billion barrels, and that the world was using oil up at 30.688 billion barrels per year. This indicates that, even if future use does not increase in China and the other developing countries, all of the known oil reserves in the world will be used up, gone, in just 43 years! However, looking at the amazingly rapid increase in consumption in China, India, South Korea, and many other developing countries, it seems clear that worldwide consumption of oil will certainly soon double, meaning that worldwide supplies may not last much beyond 20 years from now!

As a personal observation, with the total United States oil supply only being 2.5% of the world's total, and the fact that current US consumption would use all US oil up in only four years or so, I wonder about the actual benefit of building more billion dollar pipelines across Alaska to try to remove more of the oil up there faster! Would the entire effort actually provide more than a few additional months of our National usage? (Sorry for the editorial-like observation!)

Oil production - By Countries

rank country Net Importer/
Net Exporter
% Used % Produced
1. Saudi Arabia Net Exporter 2.11% 13.08%
2. Russian Federation Net Exporter 3.41% 11.86%
3. USA Net Importer 24.89% 8.53%
4. Iran Net Exporter 1.95% 5.24%
5. Mexico Net Exporter 2.26% 4.93%
6. China Net Importer 8.19% 4.51%
7. Venezuela Net Exporter 0.70% 3.97%
8. Norway Net Exporter 0.25% 3.88%
9. Canada Net Exporter 2.64% 3.82%
10. United Arab Emirates Net Exporter 0.41% 3.25%
11. Nigeria Net Exporter nil 3.16%
12. Kuwait Net Exporter 0.36% 3.10%
13. Iraq Net Exporter nil 2.58%
14. United Kingdom Net Exporter 2.14% 2.47%
15. Algeria Net Exporter 0.28% 2.15%
16. Brazil Net Importer 2.24% 1.98%
17. Libya Net Exporter nil 1.96%
18. Kazakhstan Net Exporter 0.25% 1.56%
19. Indonesia Net Importer 1.45% 1.42%
20. Angola Net Exporter nil 1.27%
21. Qatar Net Exporter 0.09% 1.16%
22. Malaysia Net Exporter 0.62% 1.04%
23. Oman Net Exporter nil 1.01%
24. India Net Importer 3.17% 0.98%
25. Argentina Net Exporter 0.50% 0.98%
26. Egypt Net Exporter 0.71% 0.90%
27. Ecuador Net Exporter 0.17% 0.71%
28. Colombia Net Exporter 0.27% 0.71%
29. Syria Net Exporter nil 0.69%
30. Australia Net Importer 1.03% 0.59%
31. Vietnam Net Exporter nil 0.54%
32. Yemen Net Exporter nil 0.52%
33. Denmark Net Exporter 0.24% 0.50%
34. Equatorial Guinea Net Exporter nil 0.45%
35. Azerbaijan Net Exporter 0.12% 0.41%
36. Sudan Net Exporter nil 0.39%
37. Congo Brazzaville Net Exporter nil 0.32%
38. Gabon Net Exporter nil 0.31%
39. Brunei Net Exporter nil 0.27%
40. Turkmenistan Net Exporter 0.13% 0.26%
41. Thailand Net Importer 1.16% 0.23%
42. Chad Net Exporter nil 0.23%
43. Trinidad & Tobago Net Exporter nil 0.19%
44. Uzbekistan Net Exporter 0.16% 0.17%
45. Romania Net Importer 0.27% 0.15%
46. Italy Net Importer 2.38% 0.14%
47. Peru Net Importer 0.19% 0.11%
48. Tunisia Net Exporter nil 0.09%
49. Cameroon Net Exporter nil 0.08%
. World . 100.00% 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy 2005, BP.
note: based on a worldwide average gravity: 1 metric tonne = 7.33 barrels.
note: a barrel is equal to 159 litres (42 gallons).

It is encouraged that you review these tables, especially this last one! Specifically, to see that the USA uses 24.89% of the world's production of petroleum while producing only 8.53%. This means that we have a constant shortage of 16.36% of the world's production, which must be provided by imports from other countries. (This is WHY we have to import nearly 70% of all the petroleum that we use, (16.36 / (16.36 + 8.53)) Then look at the list to see which countries are "friendly" to the USA. We can certainly count on Canada, but they only have about 1.18% of excess production that they do not need themselves. We tremendously rely on the nearly 3% excess from Mexico, the over 3% excess from Venezuela and about a half percent excess from Colombia. It may be optimistic to say that those countries are friends to the USA! Their governments now seem averse to US foreign policies and it seems likely that any of those three might easily suddenly decide to sell instead to China if that country offers a far better price! But we are noting that these near neighbors and potentially reliable friends only CAN provide around half of our current shortfall. The result is that we have immense dependence on a very few countries in the Mid-East, specifically Saudi Arabia and UAE and Kuwait, which between them produce an excess of around 17%, which would actually be enough for us. Our dependence on those three specific countries is enormous! If Saddam had been able to keep and hold Kuwait in 1991, it would have been a petroleum-supply nightmare for the USA. That war in 1991 was promoted as enabling the Kuwaiti people to remain free, but the US had far more important financial reasons for needing to do it. Similarly, if the large number of extremist Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia should decide to attack the few hundred members of the Saudi Royal Family and exterminate them, and start running Saudi Arabia, the US figures to have a crisis that it cannot overcome! The Wahhabis would not likely sell a drop of petroleum to the US, and they would certainly find other customers such as China. It is possible that in a single day, the greatest available supply of imported petroleum to the US could terminate, causing economic consequences that are beyond imagination. When people talk about terrorists doing another 9/11/01, they may be worrying about small potatoes! By simply doing a coup in Saudi Arabia, and ending that supply of petroleum to us, they could clearly do a thousand times more damage to us than the reality of 9/11/01 did.

Our leaders seem to spend their time worrying about the wrong questions! Each Congressman and Senator has a Staff of around 400 people (which we taxpayers pay for, of course). What do those people do? Shouldn't they be able to find this published information? Shouldn't at least a few of that city of employees be able to see the dark consequences of decisions that are only half-thought-through?

As a result of all this, we necessarily rely on potentially unstable governments such as Nigeria as suppliers of petroleum. It is very scary!


Politicians and spokespeople for a few giant corporations keep bragging about Ethanol as being the total solution to the energy crisis regarding gasoline for vehicles. This is an example of what has become amazingly effective as "spin" where outright deception is done to mislead the public. It is unbelievable that we allow such behaviors by leaders without arresting them!

First, yes, Ethanol actually has most of the benefits that are attributed to it. The most significant disadvantage regarding actual vehicles is that Ethanol has long been known to melt/destroy rubber seals like O-rings in automotive fuel systems. So nearly all older vehicles cannot use Ethanol or even the standard modern gasoline which contains maybe 10% Ethanol, without having damage.

But overall, this still sounds wonderful. In fact, if kept as a "hobby-level" fuel, it would be great. But that is not how it is promoted!

The primary reason why Ethanol has been promoted so heavily is because it is a product that is made from corn, and from the USA. Currently (2007), roughly 20% of all corn grown in the USA is used up for producing Ethanol. Before Ethanol, that corn was used as food for people and for livestock, toward our National food supply. There are already great concerns that even that 20% reduction of available corn for food uses is endangering our food supply. As long as weather is good, we may be fine, but if there are any weather anomalies where crops are damaged or destroyed, there may be immediate food supply crises. With no obvious solution except to start importing food and corn!

That 20% of the entire National corn crop used to create Ethanol generates around 5 billion gallons of Ethanol. This might sound like a lot, but it is not when compared to our usage of gasoline. A simple way that we can see this is to note that there are presently 140 million drivers in the US, and the average driver drives 12,000 miles per year. For that mileage, the average driver buys a little over 600 gallons of gasoline per year. So, between all those drivers, (multiplying) we see that about 84 billion gallons of gasoline are used up by private drivers each year. If we add in the many large trucks and the millions of smaller trucks, and railroads and airliners and taxis and all the rest, government figures show that roughly 200 billion gallons of gasoline or diesel are used each year in the USA.

The 5 billion gallons of Ethanol currently made from 1/5 of all the corn crop is therefore only about 1/40 of the actual consumption!

Could we rely on Ethanol much more than we already are? It is hard to see how! Unless we stop raising livestock (no steaks and no milk???) and eating corn products, we cannot give up many more percent of the corn crop to being used to make Ethanol. We are already about at the maximum that is possible.

So when President Bush and NASCAR and politicians keep insisting that America can become "self-sufficient" by building and selling vehicles that can run on E-85 (85% Ethanol as compared to the common current 10%), they seem to be ignorant of where that Ethanol would come from! Sure, there is plenty of Ethanol for NASCAR races, but such things are actually misleading the American public into thinking that there is no problem, or that technology has SOLVED the future energy supply problems! It is absolutely untrue, and what I would define as a lie, because the people promoting such statements KNOW that they are not true!

There is yet another tremendous disadvantage to using Ethanol! Virtually no one seems willing to admit that the PROCESSING of corn into Ethanol is VERY energy intensive! By any known method, it always takes MORE external fuel (which is invariably petroleum or natural gas based!) to make Ethanol than the end fuel contains! Making Ethanol is a losing proposition! (Have you ever heard anyone admit that fact?) So, the actual fact is that the production of Ethanol is not only using up 20% of the entire corn crop of all US farmers, but also requiring more additional imported oil and natural gas than it could ever replace!

Do such things ever make you wonder how competent our leaders are?

It also makes one wonder exactly when anyone is going to realize that this Ethanol adventure has been a really stupid idea! Our government has provided the (taxpayer) money to nearly entirely finance everything related to Ethanol, so businesses have had very little to lose. (Our politicians see that Brazil has accomplished getting most of their vehicles to run on Brazil-grown-sugar-cane Ethanol, but Brazil has far fewer vehicles than we do and they have very large croplands that are not needed for feeding cattle, so it works pretty well in that country. As to why politicians assume that it will work in the USA is pretty hard to fathom!)

You may have also realized that, where the US used to be a huge provider of food for starving people in many countries, the fact that we now have deleted 20% of the corn from availability as food has greatly affected that. You may have noticed that representatives of NGOs (non-governmental organizations, such as Charities) have been making a lot of noise over this situation, but as long as the American government thinks that Ethanol is going to solve all the energy problems, they are not going to change their current course!

As an update note to this discussion on Ethanol, in April 2007, it was announced that massive numbers of American farmers have converted from growing crops like wheat to growing corn, because the demand for Ethanol had recently doubled the crop value of corn. It is predicted that in 2008, fully 1/3 of all grain crops grown in the USA will be corn, primarily to be converted into Ethanol. News reports also have noted that dairy cattle will have less and more expensive corn to eat in the future, meaning that there will be less and more expensive milk and milk products to eat. With less wheat being planted, there will be less wheat for processing into bread and bread products, again reducing supplies and increasing the grocery prices for us. Large numbers of types of food figure to rapidly get far more expensive for all of us at the grocery store, and nearly completely this is occurring because of this sad adventure in trying to solve energy supply problems with producing Ethanol. At least, if someone was going to try something like this, it would have been nice if they decided to try something that had a more realistic possibility of being useful!

Natural Gas

Proven gas reserves (in trillion cubic metres)

rank country end 1980 end 1990 end 2000 end 2003 end 2004 end 2009 percent of total
1. Russian Federation na na 46.700 48.000 48.000 44.38 23.7%
2. Iran 14.101 17.003 26.600 27.570 27.500 29.81 15.8%
3. Qatar 2.800 4.615 14.443 25.783 25.783 25.37 13.5%
4. Saudi Arabia 3.183 5.223 6.301 6.754 6.754 7.92 4.2%
5. United Arab Emirates 2.370 5.623 6.060 6.060 6.060 6.43 3.4%
6. USA 5.573 4.742 4.968 5.293 5.293 6.93 3.7%
7. Nigeria 1.161 2.840 4.106 4.997 4.997 5.25 2.8%
8. Algeria 3.721 3.300 4.523 4.545 4.545 4.50 2.4%
9. Venezuela 1.262 3.429 4.152 4.219 4.219 5.67 3.0%
10. Iraq 0.777 3.107 3.109 3.170 3.170 3.17 1.7%
11. Kazakhstan na na 2.000 3.000 3.000 1.82 1.0%
12. Turkmenistan na na 2.860 2.900 2.900 8.10 4.3%
13. Indonesia 0.822 2.864 2.682 2.557 2.557 3.18 1.7%
14. Malaysia 0.850 1.640 2.337 2.464 2.464 2.38 1.3%
15. Australia 0.181 0.942 2.203 2.462 2.462 3.08 1.6%
16. Norway 0.449 1.550 1.937 2.461 2.386 2.05 1.1%
17. China 0.703 0.999 1.367 2.229 2.229 2.48 1.3%
18. Uzbekistan na na 1.850 1.860 1.860 1.68 0.9%
19. Egypt 0.084 0.379 1.433 1.724 1.854 2.19 1.2%
20. Canada 2.492 2.725 1.683 1.603 1.603 1.75 0.9%
21. Kuwait 1.054 1.518 1.557 1.572 1.572 1.78 1.0%
  World 83.826 131.000 160.761 179.207 179.528 187.49 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy 2005, BP and 2010 BP

Note: One cubic meter is equal to 35.31 cubic feet, so to convert these numbers to trillions of cubic feet, just multiply by 35.31.

Natural gas consumption (in trillion cubic metres)

rank country 1980 1990 2000 2003 2004 2009 percent of total
1. USA 0.566 0.552 0.670 0.645 0.647 0.647 22.2%
2. Russian Federation na 0.420 0.377 0.393 0.402 0.390 13.2%
3. United Kingdom 0.045 0.052 0.097 0.095 0.098 0.087 2.9%
4. Canada 0.052 0.067 0.083 0.092 0.089 0.095 3.2%
5. Iran 0.007 0.023 0.063 0.083 0.087 0.132 4.5%
6. Germany 0.057 0.060 0.079 0.085 0.086 0.078 2.6%
7. Italy 0.025 0.043 0.065 0.071 0.073 0.072 2.4%
8. Japan 0.026 0.051 0.076 0.076 0.072 0.087 3.0%
9. Ukraine na 0.128 0.073 0.071 0.071 0.047 1.6%
10. Saudi Arabia 0.010 0.033 0.050 0.060 0.064 0.078 2.6%
11. Uzbekistan na 0.037 0.047 0.047 0.049 0.049 1.7%
12. Mexico 0.026 0.027 0.038 0.046 0.048 0.070 2.4%
13. France 0.026 0.029 0.040 0.043 0.045 0.043 1.4%
14. Netherlands 0.034 0.034 0.039 0.040 0.043 0.039 1.3%
15. United Arab Emirates 0.005 0.017 0.031 0.038 0.040 0.059 2.0%
16. China 0.013 0.015 0.024 0.033 0.039 0.089 3.0%
17. Argentina 0.011 0.020 0.033 0.035 0.038 0.043 1.5%
18. Indonesia 0.007 0.020 0.032 0.033 0.034 0.037 1.2%
19. Malaysia 0.001 0.010 0.024 0.032 0.033 0.032 1.1%
20. India 0.001 0.012 0.027 0.030 0.032 0.052 1.8%
21. South Korea - 0.003 0.021 0.027 0.032 0.034 1.1%
22. Thailand - 0.005 0.020 0.027 0.029 0.039 1.3%
23. Venezuela 0.015 0.022 0.028 0.025 0.028 0.030 1.0%
24. Spain 0.002 0.0066 0.017 0.024 0.027 0.035 1.2%
60. China Hong Kong SAR - - 0.002 0.001 0.002 0.003 0.1%
  World 1.452 1.994 2.438 2.603 2.689 2.940 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy 2005, BP and 2010 BP

Note: One cubic meter is equal to 35.31 cubic feet, so to convert these numbers to trillions of cubic feet, just multiply by 35.31.

There are two important considerations to note in this data. Using the 2004 data, note that the United States had 5.293 trillion cubic meters of proven reserves, and that we were currently using natural gas up at 0.647 trillion cubic meters per year. This indicates that, without any imported natural gas, we would use up all of the proven reserves in just 8.18 years! EIGHT YEARS usage is all we have, ever! Using the 2009 data, note that the United States had 6.93 trillion cubic meters of proven reserves, and that we were currently using natural gas up at 0.647 trillion cubic meters per year. This indicates that, without any imported natural gas, we would use up all of the proven reserves in just 10.7 years! ELEVEN YEARS usage is all we have, ever!

The other is the same thing for the world. The world proven reserves (2004) were 179.528 trillion cubic meters, and that the world was using natural gas up at 2.689 trillion cubic meters per year. This indicates that, even if future use does not increase in China and the other developing countries, all of the known natural gas reserves in the world will be used up, gone, in 67 years! The world proven reserves (2009) were 187.49 trillion cubic meters, and that the world was using natural gas up at 2.940 trillion cubic meters per year. This indicates that, even if future use does not increase in China and the other developing countries, all of the known natural gas reserves in the world will be used up, gone, in 64 years! However, looking at the amazingly rapid increase in consumption in China, India, South Korea, Spain and many other developing countries, it seems clear that worldwide consumption of natural will certainly soon double or triple, meaning that worldwide supplies may not last much beyond 20 years from now!

Also, note below that only the US, Germany, Italy, and the Ukraine import significant amounts of natural gas, with most countries are just using the locally available quantities in their own countries.

Natural gas production - by country

rank country Net Importer/
Net Exporter
% consumed % produced
1. Russian Federation Net Exporter 14.95% 21.89%
2. USA Net Importer 24.05% 20.17%
3. Canada Net Exporter 3.33% 6.79%
4. United Kingdom Net Importer 3.64% 3.56%
5. Iran Net Importer 3.24% 3.18%
6. Algeria Net Exporter 0.79% 3.05%
7. Norway Net Exporter 0.17% 2.92%
8. Indonesia Net Exporter 1.25% 2.72%
9. Netherlands Net Exporter 1.62% 2.56%
10. Saudi Arabia --- 2.38% 2.38%
11. Uzbekistan Net Exporter 1.83% 2.07%
12. Turkmenistan Net Exporter 0.58% 2.03%
13. Malaysia Net Exporter 1.23% 2.00%
14. United Arab Emirates Net Exporter 1.47% 1.70%
15. Argentina Net Exporter 1.41% 1.67%
16. China Net Exporter 1.45% 1.52%
17. Qatar Net Exporter 0.56% 1.46%
18. Mexico Net Importer 1.79% 1.38%
19. Australia Net Exporter 0.91% 1.31%
20. India Net Importer 1.19% 1.09%
21. Venezuela --- 1.04% 1.04%
22. Trinidad & Tobago Net Exporter nil 1.03%
23. Egypt Net Exporter 0.96% 1.00%
24. Pakistan Net Importer 0.96% 0.86%
25. Nigeria Net Exporter nil 0.77%
26. Thailand Net Importer 1.07% 0.75%
27. Kazakhstan Net Exporter 0.57% 0.69%
28. Ukraine Net Importer 2.63% 0.68%
29. Oman Net Exporter nil 0.65%
30. Germany Net Importer 3.19% 0.61%
31. Romania Net Importer 0.70% 0.49%
32. Bangladesh --- 0.49% 0.49%
33. Italy Net Importer 2.73% 0.48%
34. Brunei Net Exporter nil 0.45%
35. Brazil Net Importer 0.70% 0.41%
36. Bahrain Net Exporter nil 0.36%
37. Kuwait --- 0.36% 0.36%
38. Denmark Net Exporter 0.20% 0.35%
39. Bolivia Net Exporter nil 0.32%
40. Myanmar Net Exporter nil 0.27%
41. Libya Net Exporter nil 0.26%
42. Colombia Net Exporter 0.23% 0.24%
43. Syria Net Exporter nil 0.19%
44. Azerbaijan Net Importer 0.32% 0.17%
45. Poland Net Importer 0.49% 0.16%
46. Vietnam Net Exporter nil 0.16%
47. New Zealand --- 0.13% 0.13%
  World   100.00% 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy June 2005, BP


Proved Resources of Uranium

Natural Uranium is a combination of three different isotopes, U-238, U-234 and U-235. Only the last of these is useful for the fission process, in other words for electric power plants or for weapons. Unfortunately, only 0.71% of natural Uranium is U-235. So mining a metric ton (tonne) of Uranium only results in 7.1 kilograms or about 15 pounds of U-235. This is accomplished by a process called Enriching the Uranium. It also results in the rest, nearly all U-238, being Depleted Uranium. This happens to be one of the most dense materials that exists, nearly twice as heavy as lead and nearly three times as heavy as iron! Because of this fact, it was discovered that there was a handy way to use up massive amounts of Depleted Uranium, by adding a layer of armoring on military tanks. The fact that incoming shells are only lead, they tend to have fairly minimal effect on the Tank structure. This improves the physical safety of the crew inside the Tank, with the possible exception of the constant radiation of so much nearby Uranium for many hours during Tank duty.

It is NOT necessary (or desirable) to Enrich the Uranium to really high U-235 percentages, which IS necessary for weapons-grade material. It is only necessary to improve the 0.71% natural percentage of U-235 up to around 4%, for fission to be reliable. Modern fuel pellets are sometimes made to around 5% U-235, which is very expensive to do.

Even pure U-235 Uranium cannot be COMPLETELY converted into energy. When an atom of 235U92 fissions, it generally breaks apart into two medium-sized nuclei, usually one with an atomic weight in the 90 to 100 range and the other in the 140 to 150 range. An example is a 92Kr36 nucleus and a 141Ba56 nucleus, along with three neutrons. (one neutron + 235U briefly becomes 236U which breaks up into the five objects mentioned which have a total atomic mass of 92 + 141 + 1 + 1 + 1 or 236). Note that this fission (which occurs because low speed neutrons are created in abundance and which crash into other nuclei to break them apart) is extremely different from if the 235U was left alone to spontaneously disintegrate (in millions of years) where it simply gives off an alpha-particle 4He2 and becomes a 231Th90 nucleus. The real difference is that this second process does not create lots of extra low speed neutrons.

It is possible to analyze the overall efficiency of fission, and it is surprisingly low! If the ENTIRE weight (mass) of a U-235 atom and the neutron which hits it, are described as pure energy, it is around 220,000 Million-electron-volts of energy. After that atom fissions, we can total up the energy of the new mass of the five resulting objects, and the total around 219,800 Million-electron-volts of energy. (Nearly all the mass still exists as mass, something that virtually no non-Physicist seems to know! Only about 1/1000 of the mass of the atom plus neutron disappears, so only that small fraction becomes energy. Therefore that single atom fissioning releases around 199 Million-electron-volts (total) of energy in a variety of ways. So the fission process actually only has an energy efficiency of just under 0.1% (or 199 / 220,000).

So nuclear energy, at least as fission, is NOT a very efficient process! However, there IS another type of nuclear energy, called fusion, which IS highly efficient. There are several variants of fusion which are possible, one of the more tame of which is what powers our Sun! (We have another web-page on the specific fusion process that the Sun uses, with all the tech-speak related to that.)

The United States appeared to have far more natural Uranium than any other country in 1975. It was considered that there were probably around 581,000 metric tons that was reasonably confirmed, and that there were an additional 962,000 metric tons that had not been found, but that seemed likely to exist. This second figure is extremely speculative, as it is not based on any actual data or any proven logic, and it represents primarily an "educated guess" regarding such additional reserves. The total of these two was 1,543,000 metric tons.

According to the World Nuclear Association (in their website) as of 2005 Reasonably Assured Resources plus Inferred Resources (RAR + IR) (essentially the total of the two figures above, of course realizing that we had been mining Uranium rapidly and constantly since 1975), the USA currently has a total of 102,000 metric tons of RAR + IR.

Where we HAD 1,543,000 metric tons in 1975, we only had 102,000 metric tons just 30 years later! And that remaining amount is NOT easily mined! This explains why ALL the (39) Uranium mines in the United States closed down in the early 1990s. We IMPORT essentially all the Uranium used in nuclear power plants!

It is sort of amusing (darkly) to a Physicist to see politicians talk about building a hundred new nuclear power plants to supposedly solve our foreign dependence on energy supplies! One would think that they SHOULD be aware of the fact that we have had to IMPORT virtually 100% of all the uranium used in the nuclear power plants we now operate. Do they think the Tooth Fairy will provide a massive new supply of Uranium for the horde of new reactors they want to spend taxpayer money to build? By the time that such new reactors might be ready to go into operation, around 2020, even the supplies of Canada and Australia will have mostly been used up! We will not likely have any logical source for Uranium for EXISTING nuclear power plants, much less another hundred new ones they want to build! It would figure that we could wind up with a hundred shiny new nuclear power plants which will never able to be used! Planning ahead does not seem to be required any more!

It seems amazing that this does not seem frightening to our leaders! Not counting military uses or uses for research, we certainly NEED to be mining at least 14,000 metric tons of natural Uranium each year, just to supply the hundred existing nuclear powerplants we are operating, and our experts only believe we have 102,000 metric tons yet to find! (We NEED to replace around 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel pellets and they each required Enrichment by about a factor of seven to get up to the 4% or 5% necessary for operation, and multiplying is the need for 14,000 metric tonnes of raw Uranium. It is mined as a material called Yellowcake which is an oxide of uranium. About 40% of the weight of Yellowcake is oxygen atoms that have to be removed.

In the 30 years between 1975 and 2005, if we have mined 14,000 metric tons each year, that is around 420,000 metric tons we have already mined (only counting the Uranium used for power plant reactors), so that the figures seem to generally agree, 581,000 - 420,000 is in very rough agreement to the recent assessment that we now probably have 102,000 metric tons yet available to mine.

On the good side, countries like Australia have discovered huge amounts of natural Uranium. Here is a chart of the countries with the largest RAR + IR amounts:


In September 2005, the World Nuclear Association published information announced the following figures (which may be optimistic, given their position as officially promoting nuclear energy and mining.) regarding supplies of Uranium, in two categories, Reasonably accessible and Inferred, that is, far more difficult to dig up. The numbers are in metric tonnes:

They note that each year, 68,000 metric tonnes are used up. Consider that fact in examining the world supplies which they published in Sept 2005.

CountryReasonably assuredInferred, Speculative
South Africa120,000120,000
Russian Federation50,00060,000
United States0100,000

Just in case you need clarification, the GRAND TOTAL of ALL Uranium under Canada, Australia and the United States totaled about 1,100,000 metric tonnes in 2005, and the US is consuming MOST of the 68,000 tonnes that get used up each year. Duh??? Even using data which is likely to be as optimistic as the Nuclear Industry can get away with, the US consumption WILL entirely use up ALL the Uranium under Canada, Australia and the United States, BY the year 2020, which even includes Inferred deposits which are not even proven to exist and which would certainly be immensely costly to mine.

There is NO realistic future for nuclear power generation beyond the year 2020, and even that is based on several assumptions which may be too optimistic! This statement is CERTAINLY true in the United States, but it seems unlikely that even France and Japan and Germany will be able to find or buy enough Uranium to keep THEIR existing nuclear power plants in operation after about 2020.

In 1975, the estimated total amount of Reasonably Assured Plus Inferred Resources in just the United States was 3,700,000 tons, which as noted was recognized as the largest amount in any country in the world. We are certainly efficient at mining, aren't we? In just 15 years after that, we had dug up nearly all the Uranium under the United States and all those mines closed down for not having any more Uranium to mine! We reduced our supply of Uranium in US mines from 3,700,000 tons down to a possible remaining 100,000 tons, which are considered to be in locations that are too difficult and too expensive to mine, so our current total is actually closer to ZERO tons!

During that period of 1975 to 1990, our Government used about 3/4 of all the Uranium mined to create Nuclear warheads, with the other 1/4 having been used to feed our 103 nuclear power plants.

The IAEA had previously published similar information for Jan 1, 2003:

Country(Reasonably Assured Plus Inferred Resources)
South Africa298,000
Russian Federation158,000
United States102,000

Specifically about Australia and Canada, we can see that in around three years (2003-2005), Australia's (inferred) remaining amount dropped from 1,074,000 to 710,000; and Canada's remaining amount dropped from 439,000 to 340,000 metric tonnes. Of course, the number given for the United States has not changed since about 1992 since we no longer have ANY working Uranium mines!

IF these rates of reduction (between the published 2003 and 2005 data) have remained valid during the seven more years after the Sept 2005 data, we might extrapolate to estimate that Australia might have mined NEARLY ALL the remaining Uranium there ALREADY, while Canada might have mined an additional 200,000 metric tonnes, to now have maybe 140,000 metric tonnes left under Canada.

That is, Australia removed about 364,000 tonnes in that 2.7 years, or 135,000 metric tons per year. In the seven succeeding years, that would be about 940,000 of additional uranium ore mined in Australia, considerably more than the 710,000 tonnes they had left in Sept 2005. That seems to imply that Australia may have ALREADY mined essentially all the uranium ore they had! For Canada, the figures are 37,000 tons per year during 2003 to 2005, which implies 260,000 more tons in the next seven years, leaving just 80,000 metric tonnes left by late 2012. That suggests that Canada might only have about TWO YEARS of mining Uranium ore left!

THIS PUBLISHED DATA seems to suggest that even the year 2020 may be unreasonably optimistic! As terrifying as it might seem, the US may start having immense difficulty in obtaining enough Uranium for EXISTING nuclear power plants by 2015 or 2017!

So the idea of spending many billions of dollars to build 100 NEW nuclear power plants is total insanity! Even the TWO new nuclear plants which President Obama authorized, which figure to be completed and ready to go into operation around 2020, may have NO available nuclear fuel to put into them!

SEE why this is really important stuff?

It seems realistic to conclude that both Australia's and Canada's mines will run out of Uranium WITHIN A COUPLE YEARS of now (2011)! Even in the most optimistic view, the likelihood that EITHER of those countries will have any Uranium to sell to us in 2020 seems very unlikely.

You might also note that the US has NO remaining Uranium that is Reasonably Accessible, which is why all those 39 mines closed nearly 20 years ago. Even if all those mines might be re-opened (at massive cost) there is barely even one-year's-supply of INFERRED Uranium that is believed to be in the total of the 39 mines!

So, LOGIC seems to be that the US will still NOT have Uranium from the US mines and the two friendly countries will have also run out fairly soon. WHERE will the Uranium come from for the EXISTING US nuclear power plants in 2020 and afterward? If China actually builds 470 new nuclear reactors, or even a hundred or twenty, doesn't it seem that China would certainly out-bid the US for any Uranium that Kazakhstan might be willing to sell?

Those publications stated that we were currently using up Uranium at the rate of 68,000 metric tonnes per year. This is in reasonable agreement with the figures above, where around 400,000 metric tonnes of Uranium has been used up in the six years since the 2005 figures.

The overall point here is that neither Australia nor Canada can possibly have enough remaining Uranium to mine for even ten years from now, and that is at CURRENT usage rates! With China planning to build 470 nuclear power plants and many other countries also planning their own, the available supplies will disappear far faster than even that!

LOGICALLY, it is hard to see how ANY nuclear power plant can possibly have any Uranium to use, even TEN YEARS FROM NOW, UNLESS the cost of Uranium skyrockets so that every country that has even a few tonnes sends miners down to try to find it.

That World Nuclear Association, in its impressive enthusiasm to promote nuclear energy, found a way to make every imaginable assumption, in claiming that the entire world (probably) contains enough remaining Uranium to last for as long as 50 years! When even they struggle to find a positive statement to make only a reference to 50 years maxx, it is NOT a good sign! No one is going to invest in a billion dollar Uranium mine to try to find one or two tons of Uranium which MAY BE down there!

Certainly, BY 2020, no one will be able to ignore the fact that the price of Uranium will have increased by ten times or more (to motivate additional attempts at mining around the world), and the fact that nuclear power plants will even then (2020) have become far too expensive to operate to supply electricity to anyone!

So how can anyone explain the wild enthusiasm for building and operating nuclear power plants, at least up until the March 2011 nuclear power plant disasters in Japan?


All of the reactors operating in the United States are light water reactors. There are 69 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and 34 boiling water reactors (BWRs). Currently PWRs are reaching and exceeding a burnup (meaning the amount of initial nuclear energy in the fuel) of over 55,000 MWd/MTU (megawatt-day per metric tonne of Uranium) and BWRs are reaching and exceeding burnups of greater than 45,000 MWd/MTU.

In both cases the fuel starts with a Uranium-235 concentration of between 4.5 and 5.0% and at discharge it is in the range of 0.6 to 0.8 % Uranium-235.

In 2004, the 103 operating nuclear reactors produced a (record) total of 789 billion kWh of electricity. (This info is from the Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc.

We can analyze this information. We can say that the average burnup is around 50,000 Megawatt-days/metric ton of uranium in the fuel. This is the same as 1,200,000 Megawatt-hours/ton of Uranium in the fuel, or 1.2 * 1012 watt-hours. It is known that roughly 2,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel is replaced each year. With each metric ton having 1.2 * 1012 Wh of energy in it, then 2,000 metric tons have 2400 * 1012 Wh of energy that gets released. From above, we know that 789 * 1012 Wh become electricity. This indicates that a nuclear plant has an overall operating efficiency of 789/2400 or 32.9%. This is in very good agreement with figures from other sources. The overall efficiency is primarily limited by the efficiency of the steam turbine (and the related huge heat losses from the cooling towers) and the alternator configuration which converts the rotational energy of the turbine shaft into an electromagnetic field and then to electricity.

The primary point here is that we are confirming that 2,000 metric tons of fuel is replaced each year. That fuel is NOT just natural Uranium! Natural Uranium only has around 0.71% of the 235U that is actually the fuel material. Natural Uranium must therefore be "enriched" up to the nearly 5% required concentration for use in power generation reactors. This is a complex and difficult process, but the main point here is that SEVEN TIMES as much natural Uranium needs to be processed in order to get ONE amount of enriched fuel suitable for the reactor. Therefore, we are NOT just consuming 2,000 metric tons of natural Uranium each year, but around 7 times that much, or 14,000 metric tons each year (for current American electricity production of roughly 20% of the country's electricity.

In actual use, the nuclear fuel is processed into small fuel pellets, each of which only weighs around 7 grams (1/4 of an ounce) and about the size of a stub piece of chalk in school. The 2,000 metric tons that are discarded each year therefore actually are around 280 million little pellets of spent fuel.

There are already around 40,000 metric tons of spent fuel currently needing to be stored somewhere, from just American nuclear power plants. This quantity, if all brought together, would cover a football field maybe 10 feet deep. Unfortunately, it is all highly radioactive, and therefore dangerous, and that radioactivity constantly creates heat.

The WORLD therefore seems to have sufficient Uranium (3537 thousand metric tons/68 thousand metric tons of consumption each year), or a supply for 52 years. As noted above, the United States has a far worse situation (102 thousand/14 thousand) or only around 7.3 years. And THAT quantity is in extremely difficult locations in mines that had been considered not profitable to mine because they are so hard to get to.

As a related subject, the US decommissioned thousands of US and USSR retired nuclear bombs. The nearly pure U-235 from those warheads that the United States and the former Soviet Republics dismantled, was then mixed with natural uranium or even Depleted Uranium to create nuclear material. The US did this during the 2000 decade, which provided a few percent of the Uranium used in power plants. In a great distinction with nuclear power plants, which require Uranium to be enriched to around 4% or 5%, the nuclear weapons have Uranium that was enriched to around 90%! That is around 20 times more enriched than is needed for reactors, so they could be de-enriched with 19 times as much natural Uranium to create 20 times that much usable reactor fuel.

Since the year 2000, roughly 30 metric tons of high-grade nuclear weapons material has been replacing the need for around 9000 metric tons of Uranium oxide each year. As long as there was a supply of these de-commissioned nuclear warheads, the annual need of 14,000 metric tons for producing American electricity was reduced. This helped to stretch our meager supplies! So the necessary importation of Uranium for those years was not 100% but it dropped to around 92%, as long as we still had decommissioned warheads to degrade into fuel.

A few experts seem aware of the upcoming crisis. They are looking at many possibilities, such as modifying some existing reactors to be able to use Thorium-232 as a fuel instead of Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239. There are fairly large known reserves of Thorium. It is NOT clear whether this is a generally usable concept. It may take several decades to do enough research to know.

There is a clarification that seems necessary here. In the year 2002, we gave a figure of 2,000 metric tons of actual fuel pellets being installed in the 103 operating American reactors. However, we also said that 57.3 million pounds was used for that purpose. This might seem confusing! The explanation is this: The 57.3 million pounds is 26,000 metric tons of raw ore, actually U3O8, Uranium Oxide, the usual form that natural Uranium is found. Roughly 22,000 metric tons of this is actually Uranium. This natural Uranium is nearly all the isotope 238U, with only 0.71% being the important 235U isotope that is used in reactors. However, reactors are designed to currently need fuel that is around 4% to 5% 235U. In order to accomplish this "enrichment" all the 235U from seven amounts of Uranium ore is concentrated into one amount (thereby enriching it from 0.71% to around 5%) with the remaining six amounts then being "depleted Uranium", that is, without any 235U in it. The processes are not as perfect as that, and some 235U does not get captured from the depleted Uranium, so more than a 7:1 ration of ore to fuel is involved.

Because of this necessary enrichment, the 22,000 metric tons of raw Uranium oxide ore results in around 3,000 metric tons of fuel grade material and 19,000 metric tons of depleted Uranium. This 3,000 metric tons of actual fuel is the source for the 2,000 metric tons that go into US nuclear reactors, additional nuclear fuel for American submarines, aircraft carriers and other ships, and innumerable research reactors and other projects.


Proved coal reserves at end 2004 (in million tonnes)

rank country anthracite
& bituminous
& lignite
total percent
of total
1. USA 111,338 135,305 246,643 27.13%
2. Russian Federation 49,088 107,922 157,010 17.27%
3. China 62,200 52,300 114,500 12.60%
4. India 90,085 2,360 92,445 10.17%
5. Australia 38,600 39,900 78,500 8.64%
6. South Africa 48,750 - 48,750 5.36%
7. Ukraine 16,274 17,879 34,153 3.76%
8. Kazakhstan 28,151 3,128 31,279 3.44%
9. Poland 14,000 - 14,000 1.54%
10. Brazil - 10,113 10,113 1.11%
11. Germany 183 6,556 6,739 0.74%
13. Canada 3,471 3,107 6,578 0.72%
  World 478,771 430,293 909,064 100.00%
source: World Energy Council

Coal consumption (in million tonnes oil equivalent)

rank country 1980 1990 2000 2003 2004 percent of total
1. China 314.4 533.6 455.0 834.7 956.9 34.44%
2. USA 385.6 483.6 569.1 562.5 564.3 20.31%
3. India 57.1 107.8 169.1 190.6 204.8 7.37%
4. Japan 57.6 76.0 98.9 112.2 120.8 4.35%
5. Russian Federation na 180.6 106.0 109.4 105.9 3.81%
6. South Africa 43.5 71.3 81.9 89.3 94.5 3.40%
7. Germany 139.6 129.6 84.9 87.2 85.7 3.08%
8. Poland 101.6 80.2 57.6 57.7 57.7 2.08%
9. Australia 26.1 37.0 48.3 50.9 54.4 1.96%
10. South Korea 13.2 24.4 43.0 51.1 53.1 1.91%
11. Ukraine na 74.8 38.8 39.0 39.4 1.42%
12. United Kingdom 71.1 64.9 36.9 39.2 38.1 1.37%
13. Taiwan 3.8 11.2 28.9 35.3 36.8 1.32%
14. Canada 22.6 24.4 29.4 30.6 30.5 1.10%
26. Mexico 2.4 3.4 6.2 8.6 9.0 0.32%
  World 1,810.6 2,237.4 2,148.1 2,613.5 2,778.2 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy June 2005, BP
note: Commercial solid fuels only, i.e. bituminous coal and anthracite (hard coal), and lignite and brown (sub-bituminous) coal.

Note: This table is in "oil equivalent" rather than simple tonnes. That is because there is significant difference of heat content of the different types of coal. Bituminous coals can have a heat content of from 11,000 to 14,000 Btu/pound. Sub-Bituminous can have 8,300 to 10,500 Btu/pound. Lignite can have 6,300 Btu/pound. Therefore, this chart converts the quantities consumed into a more consistent quantity, based on the heat content of crude oil, which is generally pretty close to 19,000 Btu/pound. Therefore to convert the values in this chart to actual tonnes (metric tons) of coal, you should multiply by about 1.5 (for bituminous, 19,000/13,000). So the actual annual consumption of coal in the USA is around 900 million tonnes. This indicates that the United States has plenty of coal for around 250 more years, where it is now primarily used to produce electricity.

Coal production (in million tonnes oil equivalent)

rank country % Usage % Production
1. China 34.44% 36.23%
2. USA 20.31% 20.76%
3. Australia 1.96% 7.30%
4. India 7.37% 6.91%
5. South Africa 3.40% 5.01%
6. Russian Federation 3.81% 4.67%
7. Indonesia 0.80% 2.98%
8. Poland 2.08% 2.55%
9. Germany 3.08% 2.00%
10. Kazakhstan 0.99% 1.63%
11. Ukraine 1.42% 1.53%
12. Colombia 0.10% 1.31%
13. Canada 1.10% 1.28%
14. Czech Republic 0.73% 0.86%
15. United Kingdom 1.37% 0.56%
16. Vietnam nil 0.54%
17. Turkey 0.83% 0.37%
18. Greece 0.33% 0.35%
19. Romania 0.26% 0.25%
20. Spain 0.76% 0.25%
21. Venezuela 0.00% 0.24%
22. Thailand 0.37% 0.21%
23. Bulgaria 0.26% 0.16%
24. Mexico 0.32% 0.16%
25. New Zealand 0.06% 0.11%
26. Hungary 0.11% 0.11%
27. Zimbabwe nil 0.08%
28. Brazil 0.41% 0.06%
29. South Korea 1.91% 0.05%
30. Pakistan 0.12% 0.05%
31. Japan 4.35% 0.03%
32. France 0.45% 0.02%
  World 100.00% 100.00%
source: Statistical Review of World Energy June 2005, BP
note: Commercial solid fuels only, i.e. bituminous coal and anthracite (hard coal), and lignite and brown (sub-bituminous) coal.

Note that very few countries either export or import significant quantities of coal. That may change in the future as oil, natural gas and nuclear energy supplies dwindle.

There is a way of confirming some of the things described in this presentation! It is fairly commonly accepted that a well-operating coal-powered electric generation plant should use around 0.39 million metric tons (tonnes) of coal in producing 109 kwh of electricity. This is around 0.43 million tons (American) or 0.86 billion pounds of coal. That means that 0.86 pound of coal is consumed to produce 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity.

The energy content in coal is quite variable but it is reasonable to expect that the better quality coal used in power plants has around 13,000 Btu of energy in it. That means that 0.86 pound of coal has around 11,200 Btu of energy in it. A kilowatt-hour of electricity is equal to 3412 Btu. That means that the power plants have an overall efficiency of 3412/11200 or 30.5% (with the rest going into heat that contributes toward global warming). This is in the same ballpark efficiency as the other sources of electricity, generally right around 30% overall efficiency.


(We haven't yet figured out a good way to present data on this!)


Energy consumption by type and country, 2004

rank country million tonnes oil equivalent
oil natural gas coal nuclear hydro-electric total
1. USA 937.6 582.0 564.3 187.9 59.8 2,331.6
2. China 308.6 35.1 956.9 11.3 74.2 1,386.2
3. Russian Federation 128.5 361.8 105.9 32.4 40.0 668.6
4. Japan 241.5 64.9 120.8 64.8 22.6 514.6
5. India 119.3 28.9 204.8 3.8 19.0 375.8
6. Germany 123.6 77.3 85.7 37.8 6.1 330.4
7. Canada 99.6 80.5 30.5 20.5 76.4 307.5
8. France 94.0 40.2 12.5 101.4 14.8 262.9
9. United Kingdom 80.8 88.2 38.1 18.1 1.7 226.9
10. South Korea 104.8 28.4 53.1 29.6 1.3 217.2
11. Brazil 84.2 17.0 11.4 2.6 72.4 187.7
12. Italy 89.5 66.0 17.1 - 11.0 183.6
13. Iran 73.3 78.4 1.1 - 2.7 155.5
14. Spain 77.6 24.6 21.1 14.3 7.9 145.5
15. Mexico 85.2 43.3 9.0 2.1 5.7 145.3
16. Ukraine 17.4 63.6 39.4 19.7 2.7 142.8
17. Saudi Arabia 79.6 57.6 - - - 137.2
18. South Africa 24.9 - 94.5 3.4 0.8 123.7
19. Australia 38.8 22.1 54.4 - 3.8 119.0
  World 3,767.1 2,420.4 2,778.2 624.3 634.4 10,224.4
source: "Statistical Review of World Energy 2005", BP.
note: This chart only tabulates commercially traded fuels, thus excluding fuels such as wood, peat and animal waste.


The United States seems to be in a very dangerous situation! We seem to lately take glee in antagonizing even ally countries, so it might even be possible that we may have to totally rely on energy resources that we have in the United States. And, from the official figures collected above, we can see that the supplies are dangerously low!

Yes, these comments seem to resemble a "The sky is falling! The sky is falling" theme. Malthus said that 200 years ago, and then people in the 1930s and then in the 1970s. But they were not yet consuming energy at the astounding rates we do today.

There are certainly people in this field (such as Colin MacDonald) who see absolutely no reason for any concern. They trust in the accomplishments of new technologies to discover even more of these various resources, so they do not have the slightest concerns about future supplies. Maybe they are right. But the consequences of if they are wrong are mind-boggling. And terrifying, especially for the United States.

It seems to me that any of many things could trigger true nightmares for the USA. We currently import around 63% of all the oil we consume in the US, mostly from the Mid-East, and mostly from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer (as seen in the numbers above). We see that China's economy is growing amazingly rapidly, which means that the are needing more and more energy to drive their industrial economy. Doesn't it seem possible that China could some day (even tomorrow!) approach Saudi Arabia and offer to buy all the oil they have for five times the current market price, $300 per barrel? What would Saudi Arabia do? What else, but to sell all their oil to China, unless the US is suddenly willing to pay so much for oil that the entire rest of the American economy would disintegrate. China could also approach Iran, and Venezuela and other countries, to buy all their oil too. Try to think of any solution to the American situation then? (Except to try to invade yet more countries!)

Equally as dire is if the many millions of Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia would decide to kill off the Saudi Royal family and take over that country. The Wahhabis would not sell a gallon of oil to the US. So that is another "day" that would be totally disastrous for the USA.

Neither of these situations has the slightest hint of any solution. In either case, our oil supply would be instantly reduced by around half, and there would be nothing we could do about it. Imagine the productivity of American industry and business with only have the oil available, and the new cost of it skyrocketing.

There are many terrifying possibilities. Yes, it would be nice to be able to accept the comfortable views of people who see no problems ahead. But doesn't it make sense to at least do a little preparing for such bad possibilities?

What Can Be Done?

Well, for things that YOU can do, to reduce your dependence on these rapidly dwindling resources, you might visit Conserving Energy - Methods and Processes

For things that can be done about DIFFERENT sources of energy for our modern lifestyles, there are already several web-pages in this Domain, including ones on Wind-to-Electricity, Photovoltaic (Solar-to-Electricity), a modification to automobile engines to greatly improve thermal efficiency, woodstoves, and assorted other concepts.

Upcoming web-pages will include ones on Reducing Thermal Heat Wastage at Electric Power Generation Stations (all those giant cooling towers, etc) and about a much higher efficiency hydroelectric system, where low-head (20-feet) rivers/dams can be used to produce impressive amounts of electric power.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in October 2005.

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Electricity from Solar, Wind, Water, More. Make All Your Own GREEN Electricity (2001, 2003, 2010)
Woodstove Energy Production and Efficiency, from a Radiant Woodstove (published 1979)
Firewood Ratings. Firewood Info Chart.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago