Global Registry of Fossil Fuels

Fossil Fuel Emissions in the Global Economy

How Fossil Fuel rents are distributed

The chart below matches natural resource rent and GDP data from the World Bank against emissions from the top 10 producing countries of oil, gas and coal in 2020.


Although fossil fuel production is spread across nearly 140 countries of all levels of economic develop, and profits vary widely, a few initial patterns seem to emerge.

Coal production is concentrated in relatively low income economies (at the bottom left of the graph) and generates relatively low rents. Some 12 gigatons are triggered by production in just six countries: China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Kazakhstan and South Africa. But production in the United States and Australia each generate a gigaton of emissions per year, and in Europe Germany and Poland remain significant producers.

Oil profits have been consistently high compared to gas and coal, particularly in OPEC countries in the Middle East, where mature, large fields have been producing for decades and operating costs remain relatively low.

Rich world (OECD) production (to the right of the graph) remains significant, but is characterised by relatively low profits per unit of production. Emissions from production in Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany and Poland stand at over nine gigatons per year, but all lie below $20 per barrel of oil equivalent.


The World Bank maintains natural resource rent and Gross Domestic Product data running from 1970 to 2020.

"Rents" are a term used by economists to denote profits above those expected, or which are necessary to run a project on a commercial basis. The World Bank estimates natural resource rents as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and separately offers statistics for GDP in nominal US dollars. From this, the value of the rents, or loosely speaking profits, can be expressed in dollars.

Because resource rents are naturally volatile from year to year, a 10 year moving average has been applied both to the estimates of the rents themselves, and to the underlying GDP figures, which are therefore the average of 2010-20.

Gas and coal are normalised to the measure "barrel of oil equivalent" (boe)so that they can be directly compared with oil, using standard industry constants.

Lastly, it should be noted that the drastic rise in prices over 2021 and 2022 will create rents bigger per boe than seen in this graph. Gas particularly has reached unprecedented price levels, and the gas bubbles representing emissions in the graph will rise towards the middle of the Y axis and above under 2021-22 prices.

Global Registry of Fossil Fuels

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