Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) have been the primary energy sources shaping our modern world. While these resources have fuelled the globe for decades, they have a huge detrimental consequence on the natural world – they emit huge amounts of harmful carbon dioxide emissions as they’re burned to create energy.
Fossil fuels are a powerful energy source, but are highly damaging to the environment as the biggest contributors to climate change. Recent data paints a concerning picture of our escalating dependence on these finite resources, revealing that fossil fuel consumption has not only continued since the Industrial Revolution, but increased exponentially, nearly doubling since 1980.
This surge highlights the growing importance of transitioning toward more sustainable energy alternatives, as our current trajectory is unsustainable and worsens the global climate crisis. In this article, Tariff will break down energy consumption and production for fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy sources.
Each year, we use a huge amount of fossil fuels, which still make up approximately 80% of the world’s energy. With our latest report, we’ll explore which countries are the biggest culprits for fossil fuel usage, and which countries are helping to slow global warming in opting for more renewable energy sources. We will outline the five countries with the highest consumption and production, so that we can evaluate global energy usage to help create a greener future for all.
We have used a range of reliable sources, including official government data and figures collected from reputable sources like Statista. These not only offer unbiased and objective overview of the data that’s available, they also provide a comprehensive overview of which countries consume and produce each type of energy source.
In the interests of clarity, we’ve opted to lay the data we’ve sourced out in lists of the top five of each category, broken down by renewables, as well as fossil fuel consumers.
The countries that consume the most renewable energy are China, the USA, Germany, Brazil, and India. However, this isn’t necessarily the best representation, as these figures don’t reflect how these countries are also the biggest fossil fuel consumers. Instead, it’s important to look at the proportion of energy that a country uses that’s renewable, to really see which countries are most renewable.
Therefore, we have decided to make our list for this category based upon the data of which countries have the highest proportion of renewable energy consumption, using data from official government sources.
Renewable energy refers to energy derived from natural sources that do not cause harm to the environment. Whilst fossil fuels are a finite resource, renewable energy is made from sources that are constantly replenished. This includes:
While emerging options for renewable energy sources such as hydrogen are gradually gaining traction, they aren’t yet adopted widely enough to be considered on our rankings.
Renewable energy makes up almost 100% of electricity production in Iceland since 2015. 73% of this comes from hydropower and 27% comes from geothermal sources. Plus, 99% of Iceland’s heating is from geothermal sources, making it the country with the highest proportion of renewable energy consumption.
98% of Norway’s electricity production comes from renewable energy sources, with hydropower as the biggest energy source. Norway is the largest hydropower nation in Europe, and its 1,500 power plants covers approximately 60% of Norway’s energy demand.
Since 2015, renewable energy sources have made up 98% of Costa Rica’s power. In November 2021, Costa Rica approved a bill which enabled its citizens to produce their own renewable electricity and sell their surplus energy, further increasing their commitment to renewable power.
In Uruguay, 98% of its electricity is derived from renewable energy sources. What’s more, it is one of the fifth biggest producers of solar and wind energy globally. In 2021, Uruguay’s electricity was powered by 37% hydropower, 35% wind power, 18% fossil fuel, 7% biomass and 3% solar energy.
In Kenya, 93% of the country’s energy is renewable. Although the Kenyan government had pledged that their electricity generation would be made up of 100% renewable energy sources, the country derives most of its energy from hydropower and geothermal sources. Kenya is also home to the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which is the largest wind farm in Africa.
Crude oil is also known as petroleum, made up of a mixture of hydrocarbons. This is a fossil fuel, and a non-renewable source of energy, meaning that it will eventually run out. Petroleum is used to make gasoline and can also be burned to create energy. When burned, it releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
On top of this, the production and transportation of crude oil has negative environmental impacts too. One of the common methods of extracting crude oil is through a technique called fracking, which uses large amounts of water and hazardous chemicals.
A fracking well can use 10,000 to 30,000 cubic metres of water, which is enough to fill as many as 12 Olympic swimming pools. The wastewater from this process is often disposed into deep wells, which can cause earthquakes. During 100 days of fracking in Lancashire, 54 seismic events in the UK occurred during the period, all directly linked to the fracking operations.
Another risk of crude oil is oil spills which, although uncommon, are devastating for the natural environment, particularly aquatic life. Most are the result of accidental spills during the transportation of oil. In 2022, there were four oil spills reported across the globe, in which over 700 metric tons of oil was leaked.
The list below outlines the countries with the highest production of crude oil in 2022, using data recorded by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
14.7% of world crude oil production in 2022 was attributed to the United States, with 760 million metric tons of oil produced throughout the year. According to Forbes, 2022 was the second highest year of oil production in US history.
The second largest producer of crude oil in 2022 was Saudi Arabia, having produced 13.2% of total global crude oil production. According to OPEC, Saudi Arabia possesses approximately 17% of the world’s petroleum reserves.
Russia produced 12.7% of total world crude oil production in 2022, making it the third largest producer globally. Despite sanctions from Western countries designed to penalise the Russian economy, crude oil production in Russia continued to increase by 2.1% compared to 2021.
Falling just behind Canada is Iraq, having produced 5.5% of global crude oil in 2022. This amounts to a whopping production load of approximately 4.5 million barrels per day throughout 2022, with China receiving 29.9% of Iraq’s total crude oil shipments in 2022.
Natural gas is created naturally over hundreds of millions of years, but the fact that we are consuming it at a rate far faster than it can be replenished makes it a non-renewable energy source.
It mostly contains methane, which is a strong greenhouse gas that traps over 28x more heat than carbon dioxide. When burned, it produces nitrogen oxides, contributing to air pollution. It’s estimated that 80% of all man-made CO2 and greenhouse gases originate from the combustion of fossil fuels.
Natural gas is extracted from rock formations by drilling, which is disruptive to both wildlife and water sources. Pipelines are often laid to transport natural gas from wells, which can result in contaminated water.
According to the Energy Institute, the world only has 49 years of natural gas supply left, if we keep consuming at the current rate. This is the shortest time of all fossil fuels, compared with an estimated 57 years left of crude oil and 139 years left of coal. This highlights the importance of moderating our consumption of natural gas, and why opting for renewable energy sources is a growing necessity.
Using data collected by the Energy Institute, we have outlined and provided information about the countries with the highest production of natural gas. This is measured in billion cubic metres.
In 2022, the United States by far produced the most natural gas, having produced 978.6 billion cubic metres. 64% of US exports of natural gas went to Europe, predominantly France, the UK, Spain, and the Netherlands.
Russia is the second largest producer of natural gas, with 618.8 billion cubic metres produced in 2022 alone. Political tensions resulted in lower exports throughout 2022, with Russian company Gazprom exporting 101 billion cubic metres of natural gas abroad, which is 45.5% less than over 2021.
In third place is Iran, which produced a total of 259.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2022. Iran exported 18.79 billion cubic metres of natural gas throughout 2022, according to data from the OPEC Annual Statistical Bulletin.
China is the fourth largest producer of natural gas, having produced 220.1 billion cubic metres of gas in 2022. This is a 6% increase from 2021, and its production fulfilled 59% of China’s domestic natural gas demand.
Canada produced 185 billion cubic metres of gas throughout 2022. According to Canada Energy Regulator, the country exports around half of the natural gas that it produces. Most Canadian gas exports go to the United States.
As with crude oil and natural gas, coal takes millions of years to form. To extract it, either surface or underground mining must take place. The mining process releases methane emissions, as well as particulate matter, which are both harmful to human health and the atmosphere. It’s estimated that approximately 42 million metric tonnes of methane leaked from coal mines in 2022.
When coal is burned, the heat generated is used to turn water to steam, which then spins a turbine to generate energy. Burning coal releases more CO2 than oil or gas, and produces mercury and arsenic, which are toxic to humans and animals.
Below we have outlined the countries that are the biggest producers of coal in 2021, using data recorded by Statista released in 2023. This is measured in million metric tons.
China is by a long mile the largest producer of coal worldwide, having produced 3,771 million metric tons in 2021. In September 2023, China’s coal exports accounted for over $3.26 billion, with most exports to Japan, Indonesia, and India.
India is the world’s second largest producer of coal, having produced 778 million metric tons of coal in 2021. Most exports of India’s coal goes to neighbouring countries (Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan) to meet their demands.
With 554 million metric tons of coal produced in 2021, Indonesia is the world’s third largest producer of coal. Between January and October 2023, Indonesia exported over 413 million metric tons of coal, primarily to China and Hong Kong. This makes it the world’s largest exporter of coal.
In fourth place, the United States produced 481 million metric tons of coal in 2021. In the first eight months of 2023, 10.6 million metric tons of US-produced coal was exported to Asia. 7 million metric tons were exported to India, 1.3 million metric tons were exported to Japan, and 1.1 million tons were exported to China.
Australia is the world’s fifth biggest producer of coal, having produced 433 million metric tons of coal in 2021. It is the second largest exporter of coal and is forecast to export 201 million metric tons in 2023-24 an increase from 178 million in 2022-23.
Nuclear energy is produced by a process of fission, where uranium atoms are split. The released heat from this creates steam that spins a turbine, which then generates electricity. According to the London School Of Economics, nuclear power has a carbon footprint of just 15-50 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, compared to a whopping 1,050 grams per kilowatt hour for coal. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear energy produces zero carbon emissions and does not produce greenhouse gases.
However, nuclear energy cannot be used completely instead of fossil fuels due to costs and safety concerns. Nuclear power plants have their own set of unique risks, which the Fukushima disaster in 2011 tragically highlighted.
In this disaster, systems at the nuclear plant detected a nearby earthquake and automatically shut down reactors, but a tsunami wave hit the plant and knocked down emergency generators. The following days witnessed nuclear meltdown– reactors overheated, exploded, and melted. This resulted in many injuries, deaths, and many more exposed to radiation.
This is why, whilst nuclear energy is better for the environment than fossil fuels, it is likely to be used in conjunction with renewable energy sources to make global energy more sustainable.
Below, we have ranked the 5 biggest producers of nuclear energy, based off the number of nuclear power reactors in operation as of May 2023 (meaning they are connected to the grid). This is the latest recorded data published via Statista.
The United States has the highest production of nuclear power, with a total of 93 nuclear power reactors. According to the World Nuclear Association, the United States accounts for approximately 30% of total global nuclear electricity generation.
France has the second highest global production of nuclear power, with 56 nuclear power reactors in operation. In 2022, 62.6% of domestic electricity generation was from nuclear power.
In close third place is China, with 55 power reactors in operation. In China’s latest Five Year Plan, a 2025 target of a 70GW nuclear capacity has been set, indicating plans for large nuclear expansion.
In 4th place is Russia, with a total of 37 operable nuclear power reactors. 19.6% of Russia’s domestic electricity generation was from nuclear power sources in 2022.
The fifth highest producer of nuclear power is Japan, with 33 operable nuclear power reactors. In 2022, 6.1% of domestic electricity generation was from nuclear power sources.
While it’s crucial to look at who’s producing the most energy, it’s equally important to see where that’s going, and the countries that are utilising those Primary energy sources include fossil fuels (crude oil, natural gas, coal), nuclear energy, and renewable sources of energy.
We have ranked these countries based on their energy consumption, in exajoules (1 exajoules is equal to more than 2 and a half billion kWh), throughout 2022.
China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy, consuming 159.39 exajoules of energy in 2022. Most of this is due to their huge manufacturing industry, which is mostly powered by coal. According to the Global Energy Institute, China consumes nearly half of the global supply of coal.
The United States is the world’s second largest consumer of energy, having consumed 95.91 exajoules of energy in 2022. 36% of this was oil consumption, and 33% from natural gas. However, a higher proportion of US energy consumption was from renewable sources compared with coal, with 13% from renewable sources and only 10% from coal.
India is the third largest energy consumer across the globe after consuming 36.44 exajoules of energy throughout 2022. Despite the average household in India consuming only a tenth as much electricity as the average household in the United States, India’s size and its huge plans for growth means that its energy demand is predicted to increase even further.
Russia is the fourth biggest consumer of energy and consumed 28.89 exajoules of energy in 2022. Most of this is from fossil fuels, particularly gas, which accounted for over 50% of Russia’s energy consumption mix in 2021.
The fifth largest consumer of energy is Japan, which consumed 17.84 exajoules of energy in 2022. The country is heavily reliant on imports of energy, as it lacks its own energy resources. Most of Japan’s primary energy consumption is from crude oil, of which 90% is imported from the Middle East.
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