The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Debunking the Numbers

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted July 23, 2009

Individuals who oppose U.S. oil and natural gas development often cite the following sentence: "The United States represents 5 percent of the world's population but uses 25 percent of the world's energy."

Ouch. That sentence makes all of us appear to be wasteful, slothful, and uncaring about the environment. But like a lot of other statements created to appeal to our sensitivities, it exaggerates the truth and leaves out some very important facts.

According to the 2009 U.S. Statistical Abstract, the United States is home to about 4.5 percent of the world's people. And an examination of other pertinent statistics shows it makes no sense to suggest that U.S. energy consumption can be attributed to each American individually. The United States is a global economic powerhouse using energy to produce goods and services that help to improve lives all over the world. In 2008, the United States used 20.4 percent of the world's energy (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2009) to produce 20.6 percent (The World Factbook, CIA, 2008) of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Other statistics show that rather than feeling guilty about U.S. energy consumption, we should celebrate the impact of America's free market system on energy efficiency and ingenuity. Consider this statement: "In competitive markets, companies and entrepreneurs are constantly seeking to reduce production costs in order to achieve the same level of output with less energy and other inputs. This has reduced energy use and greenhouse gas per unit of output in the United States and other market-oriented countries. ("10 Cool Global Warming Policies," National Center for Policy Analysis, June 2009, with a citation to "Doing More with Less," Earth Report 2000.) As an example, World Bank statistics show the United States produces about $4.60 of GDP per kilogram of oil or equivalent energy. Russia produces only $2.00 of GDP for the same amount of energy.

Furthermore, while the U.S. "economy has grown more than 2,000 percent since 1910, fossil fuel use has increased only 600 percent, and carbon emissions per capita did not even double."("10 Cool Global Warming Policies," National Center for Policy Analysis, June 2009, with a citation to "Sustainability and the U.S. Energy System," Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, March 27, 2009.)

Clearly, America's free market system is working to produce goods and services in the most efficient way possible and is generating value for each ounce of energy that's expended. Remember this the next time someone tries to put you on a guilt trip...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.