Gas, oil and gold: where are the largest reserves on earth?

Gas, oil and gold: where are the largest reserves on earth?

“Winter is coming.” This is the perverse warning that repeatedly comes from Russia, in a threatening tone, in retaliation for the sanctions imposed to stop the Russian war machine that was advancing through neighboring Ukraine on February 24. And when war forces on the ground prove ineffective, energy blackmail becomes Moscow’s main asset to weaken the West’s firm support for the Kiev government. Attempts to cut off the funding sources that fuel Putin’s imperialist ambitions have resulted in the Kremlin turning off the gas tap on Europe.

The situation becomes even more worrying when one realizes that the EU only holds 0.2% of the world’s natural gas reserves and that the largest reserves are in the hands of authoritarian regimes. According to data from the 70th edition of the report “BP Statistical Review of World Energy”, Russia will be the country with the largest natural gas reserves by the end of 2020, with 37.4 trillion cubic meters, corresponding to 19.9% ​​of the global total. Iran comes in second, with 32.1 trillion cubic meters (17.1% of all available gas on the planet). Followed by Qatar with a reserve of 24.7 trillion cubic meters, Turkmenistan with 13.6, the United States with 12.6, China with 8.4, Venezuela with 6.3, Saudi Arabia with 6, the United Arab Emirates with 5.9 and finally Nigeria with 5.5.

These are the ten countries with the largest natural gas reserves, seven of which are under the yoke of totalitarian political systems, where democracy is a scarce commodity. This is according to the “Democracy Index 2021”, prepared by the magazine “The Economist”, which lists Russia, Iran, Qatar, Turkmenistan, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as authoritarian regimes. Nigeria is cataloged as a “hybrid regime” and only the US is considered a “defective democracy”.

Looking at the regions where the largest natural gas reserves are concentrated, the Middle East stands out with 40.3% of the total, the Commonwealth of Independent States — made up of 11 countries from the former Soviet Union — with 30.1%, Asia and Oceania at 8.8%, North America at 8.1%, Africa at 6.9%, South America at 4.2% and Europe at a remaining 1.7%.

Another damaging consequence of the war in Ukraine is the rise in fuel prices, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has decided to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day from November, which could push prices further. . And again, it will be the countries with the largest oil reserves that will benefit from the situation.

In that list, according to data from the “OPEC Annual Statistical Bulletin”, referring to 2019, Venezuela leads the way with a reserve of 303.8 billion barrels, followed by Saudi Arabia with 258.6 billion, above 208.6. billion barrels that Iran can extract from its underground deposits. Iraq already has a proven reserve of 145 billion barrels of oil, Kuwait has 101 billion and the United Arab Emirates has 97.8 billion. In terms of ‘black gold’ reserves, Russia is emerging as the seventh superpower (80 billion barrels), well above the 52.6 billion held by the US. Libya and Nigeria complete the top ten with 48.3 billion and 36.8 billion respectively. As with natural gas, the largest reserves of crude oil are also located in countries dominated by autocracies, namely Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Libya.

According to the International Energy Agency, 99.7 million barrels are consumed daily, and the United States represents a fifth of that amount (20.48 million barrels per day), the country most dependent on oil. China and India are two other giants with oil-driven economies, with daily consumption of 13.07 million barrels and 4.84 million barrels, respectively. With Russia as the second-largest oil exporter – surpassed only by Saudi Arabia – 48 countries filled Russia’s treasury with $123 billion in 2019. That year, China was responsible for 27% of Russia’s oil exports, a volume that exceeded $123 billion. was so strong that it resulted in a $34 billion bill. The weight of Russian oil is even more important in Belarus, Cuba, Kazakhstan and Latvia, where 99% of the crude oil imported by these countries comes from Russia.

Given the rampant rise in inflation, gold reserves are a guarantee to secure financial strength and halt the loss of purchasing power. And when both natural gas and oil monopolies are in the hands of autocratic regimes, gold is much more democratic, as data from the “World Gold Council” for the year 2020 indicates.

The country with the largest gold reserves is by far the United States, with 8,100 tons collected, twice as much as the second largest, Germany (3,360 tons). In third place comes Italy with 2.45 thousand tons, and fourth place is taken by France (2.43 thousand), followed by Russia (2.29 thousand) and China (1.94 thousand). Of the ten largest gold reserves, it can be inferred that seven are managed by democratic governments, one (Turkey) is controlled by a “hybrid regime” and only two (China and Russia) are available to authoritarian regimes.

In this list, Portugal ranks 13th among the largest gold reserves in the world and is the fifth EU member state with the most accumulated gold, with 383 tons, above the United Kingdom with 310 and Spain with 282. Portuguese is the official language, Portugal is also far above it, as it is necessary to move to 43rd position to find Brazil, which has a gold reserve of about 67.4 tons, while Mozambique takes 89th position with only 3.9 tons.

Here is the portrait of a world that is a mine of various riches, but the poor distribution of resources also makes it a minefield.