The spot price of oil touched a new high yesterday, running above $75 a barrel. The world’s most valuable commodity may be vulnerable to a correction if U.S. economic growth downshifts in the months ahead, but for the moment oil traders can only say buy. Some of that has to do with geopolitical tension, of which there is no shortage these days.
Alas, separating the fundamental from the political is no easy task when it comes to analyzing crude. Nonetheless, the oil giant BP recently updated its annual review of all things energy, once again making a valiant effort to emphasize the quantitative over the qualitative via its 2006 Statistical Review of World Energy.
Poring over the data, we found an array of profiles and trends, ranging from the expected to the surprising. Here’s a sampling:
Perhaps the most predictable item in crunching energy numbers is the recurring theme of Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading repository of proved oil reserves, or so official statistics tell us. Equally unsurprising is the fact that the top-five nations for proven oil reserves are also in the Middle East. Who says the oil business is always unpredictable?
Moving over to the not-so-obvious category we discovered that India and Brazil post the biggest percentage gains in proven oil reserves last year over 2004. The biggest loser, in percentage terms, was Mexico–a country that just happens to be one of the main suppliers to the energy-hungry United States. For perspective, the global change in proven reserves was 0.6% last year. It’s worth noting that proven reserves can be manipulated, depending on the country in question. In fact, it’s a safe bet that politics has more than a little influence in many countries regarding the numbers dispensed for public consumption.

Proven reserves don’t always dictate production, but it helps. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is the leader in reserves and production, pumping nearly 14% of world output last year.
2005 Production (thousands of barrels daily)
Saudi Arabia 11,035
Russia 9,551
USA 6,830
Iran 4,049
Mexico 3,759
World 81,088

Percentage changes in oil production last year v. 2004 deliver a more eclectic list. The country with the biggest relative change in output was Azerbaijan, a tiny nation that was formerly part of the old Soviet Union. The biggest loser in 2005, in percentage terms, was Vietnam, which witnessed an 8.2% decline in oil production.
Changes in daily 2005 production (thousands of barrels daily) for the top- and bottom-five producers.
Azerbaijan 42.7%
Angola 26.0%
Thailand 25.5%
Peru 18.1%
Sudan 16.6%
Uzbekistan -17.3%
Syria -11.4%
U.K. -10.8%
Iraq -9.4%
Vietnam -8.2%
World 1.1%

Returning to the realm of predictability, BP data informs that the U.S. remained the world’s biggest guzzler of oil last year. America’s crude habit ran at nearly 21 million barrels a day.
Consumption (thousands barrels daily for 2005)
USA 20,655
China 6,988
Japan 5,360
Russia 2,753
Germany 2,586
World 82459

Finally, a look at the largest percentage changes in oil consumption last year v. 2004. Qatar’s firmly in the lead, posting a 17.1% rise in crude consumption in 2005. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Belarus, another former member of the Soviet Union. Consumption of oil in Belarus tumbled more than 10% last year. Overall, world consumption rose by 1.3%–down sharply from the 3.5% rise in 2004 over 2003.
Change in daily 2005 consumption, based on daily usage
Qatar 17.1%
Kazakhstan 11.4%
Azerbaijan 11.3%
Singapore 11.0%
Hungary 10.6%
Belarus -10.4%
Peru -9.6%
Philippines -6.9%
Turkey -5.9%
Italy -3.5%
World 1.3%