May 2, 2008: Walking Through the Tribeca Film Festival

I was pretty exhausted this morning when I pulled myself out of bed. It is going to be a long day. I am really looking forward to this weekend.

The weather is cooler, almost cold, today and very misty.

Dominica was doing some oil production research today for her environmental research class and it got me wondering about which countries consume the most oil per capita. The United States is always noted in any headline about how much fuel we consume and how demanding we are on the global petroleum production system. In the list of the largest oil consuming nations per capita, I found, the United States ranks fifteenth. Not number one as people so often lead us to believe. In fact the U.S. is well in line with similar nations around the world. We come in two spots below our Canadian neighbours who have a very similar space and income profile to us.

When looking at oil consumption numbers it is tempting to see the United States as a largely disproportionate consumer by forgetting that the U.S. is a country of over 300 million citizens (with a large unknown “illegal immigrant” population as well) while it is compared principally against relatively tiny countries like Canada, the United Kingdom or France. Additionally the U.S. suffers from the worst “open space” issues of any country with its major cities lying heavily dispersed over a huge longitudinal and latitudinal space.

Canada, the only other nation with an even comparable metropolitan separation, has all of its major cities lie along a single line near the U.S. border and it has only one truly major city, Vancouver, on its Pacific coast leaving the majority of its traffic to occur over a relatively small, confined space giving it much of the profile of a European nation rather than being like the United States. International shipping from American neighbour contries also involves most shipping distance to be covered inside of U.S. borders with almost all significant Canadian destination or origination cities being right on the U.S. border. (A truck shipping product from Montreal to Atlanta, for example, will travel less than fifty miles in Canada but well over a thousand in the U.S.)

The United States also has a disproportionately high military consumption of petroleum products.  This large governmental usage of oil, which most of the population would rather not expend, comes out of our “per capita” statistics and makes the average American appear to expend far more petroleum than we really do.  Taking all this into account the U.S. appear to use disproportionately low levels of petroleum per capita when compared to nations of similar wealth and logistical concerns.

I went into Tribeca for a meeting this afternoon but as soon as I arrived there my BlackBerry service went down and I lost communications with the outside world.  It is amazing how quickly we become completely dependent on having complete communications at all times and have made no plans on how to communicate without it.  We didn’t manage to connect for the meeting so I just grabbed a sandwich in Tribeca and then decided to take advantage of the location and grab the early train home and do my late evening, which went till eight, from home rather than Wall Street.

Today is in the middle of the Tribeca Film Festival which is a pretty big deal and the office in Tribeca is right in the middle of all of the action.  I had to walk through the big “street fair” and got to see many of the festival stands and activities.  Greenwich Street was alive with activity starting all the way south at the World Trade Center site at Barclay.  There was a lot of interesting food available out there and it smelled very good.

Dominica came home and made herself dinner.  I skipped dinner as my lunch was so late.  She spent the evening, right up until midnight, working on her homework and assignments for her class at Empire State.  The class officially ends tonight.  She has already requested an extension but the professor is allowing submissions throughout the weekend.  So her goal, which she accomplished, was to complete all assignments except the final project tonight and have nothing to do over the weekend except for the final project itself.

I spent quite a bit of the evening reading.  I was pretty exhausted this evening and so I finished reading “Herding Cats” and read quite a chunk of “Agile Java Development.”  At midnight Dominica came to bed and we watched two episodes of the seventh season of The Cosby Show.  And then it was time for bed.  I have to be up before eight tomorrow morning as there is work to be done at the office that is scheduled for that time.

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  1. The US is 15th, but ahead of it are nations that all a fraction of the US population. The next comparable nation in terms of population is Japan, at 32, followed by Brazil at 99. It’s important to consider the fact that the US is built upon the automobile, whereas the nations of the European Union generally rely more on rail. I’d also imagine that the nations at the top of the list either have a really small population so as to produce a very disproportionate ratio, or are oil producing nations (Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE). Also significant is how many things are made from petroleum that we don’t realize – notably plastics, and things we take for granted, such as power production. So the small nations such as the Virgin Islands might have an oil or a co-generation plant producing excessive energy to accommodate a small population with a large tourist influx.

    It is an interesting study.

  2. Population certainly plays a “leveling” affect keeping small industries from significantly affecting the national numbers, like Luxembourg whose population is so small that any little company or national industry would skew the numbers significantly. Although Canada is quite large and is not a small countries having those affects.

    The US needs to be included in any list of oil producing nations, though, so as not to exclude it from the top of the list for those reasons. The US is consistently one of the world’s three largest oil producers. So that exempts Canada no more than the US. I believe that our per-capita oil production is much larger than that of Canada (but obviously not larger than Saudi Arabia, for example.)

    I would really like to see a breakdown of petroleum consumption by industry (manufacturing, shipping, consumer, power production, military, etc.) Most of the nations with low numbers do it partially because they never need to ship products long distance (without leaving their own borders and purchasing fuel elsewhere) or don’t rely heavily on plastics manufacturing and send that out to poorer nations.

    What we really need to see is consumer fuel consumption numbers per capita per country to really get a feel for how real people are using fuel.

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