In 2012, the U.S. led the world with the largest oil and natural gas production increases, and saw the largest gain in oil production in U.S. history.
Coal remains the fastest-growingfossil fuel in the world, even as U.S. coal consumption declined by 11.9 percent. China was the driving force, consuming half of the world’s coal last year and accounting for all of the net growth in global coal consumption.
2012 marked the largest year-to-year decline of global nuclear output in history, with Japanese output falling by nearly 90 percent.
Renewable energy saw “mixed results” in 2012. Global biofuels production declined for the first time since 2000, led by a 4.3 percent drop in the U.S. However, renewable energy used in electrical generation grew by 15.2 percent, with wind accounting for more than half of the growth.
Global growth in energy consumption slowed in 2012, partly due to continued economic sluggishness but also because individuals and businesses adapted to higher prices by becoming more energy efficient.
Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas Dominate Consumption
Last year, oil, coal, and natural gas comprised 87 percent of global energy consumption. Oil accounted for 33.1 percent of energy consumption worldwide and remains the world’s leading energy source. Coal made up 29.9 percent of world energy consumption, while naturalgas comprised 23.9 percent. Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. consumes slightly more naturalgas, more nuclear power, less coal, and less hydroelectric power. The following chart displays world energy consumption by source:
Middle East Oil Loses Ground
One piece of good news in the BP report is that as oil remains the world’s largest source of energy, the distribution of oil resources is becoming increasingly dispersed. As the next chart shows, the share of proved oil reserves found in the Middle East has shrunk from more than two-thirds in 1992 to less than half in 2012. South and Central America have taken the biggest chunk out of the Middle East’s share, as their reserves jumped from 7.6 percent in 1992 to 19.7 percent in 2012.
Worldwide biofuels production declined by 0.4 percent in 2012 for the first time since 2000. Increased production in Central and South America (2.3 percent) and the Asia Pacific (17.3 percent) was outweighed by declines in North America (-4.1 percent) and Europe (-1.5 percent), likely due to North America accounting for 47 percent of global biofuels production. Ethanol, the largest source of biofuels, drove the decline, as global output dropped by 1.7 percent for the second straight year.
One exception is biodiesel production, which grew by 2.7 percent in 2012. Biodiesel output has doubled in the past five years, catapulting biodiesel to 31 percent of the total biofuel supply. Nevertheless, global biofuels production has been essentially stagnant since 2010 after enjoying rapid and consistent growth over the previous eight years. The following chart shows the historical trend in biofuels production:
The U.S. finds itself at a critical juncture. The shale revolution, which BP describes as the “most notable phenomenon” on the supply side of its 2013 report, has the potential to make America a net exporter of oil and natural gas. Yet environmentalists question whether we should develop our abundant oil and gas resources at all, even as renewable sources remain a small slice of overall energy consumption. As the global economy continues to struggle, the extent to which America harnesses its domestic supplies of affordable, reliable energy will determine whether the U.S.—and perhaps the world—takes a path of growth or decline.
IER Policy Associate Alex Fitzsimmons and Policy Intern Kaavya Rames