Posted May 24, 2023
By Sean Ring
- I got a great question in the mailbag.
- Does Russia really have much more than the US?
- Let’s get into the weeds on this… interesting findings.
Happy Hump Day from a lovely Piedmont!
I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s mailbag. There were so many interesting questions in it.
I love when you write. Please continue to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, I will answer one question from the mailbag - or rather half of it - as it’s big enough for one Rude and a critically important topic.
Thanks to William S for asking!
Without further ado, let’s get right into it.
I just read your morning missive, “The Vacuum Tube in the Coal Mine.”
At the end, you list 10 natural resources Russia has in abundance, but we do not in the U.S.:
“Here are 10 natural resources that Russia has in abundance that are not as abundant in the United States:
- Natural gas
- Crude oil
- Rare earth elements
I call baloney on some of these, namely, natural gas, crude oil, and rare earth elements. We have natural gas in overflowing abundance. We still have lots of crude oil both within the contiguous US, offshore, and in and off the coast of Alaska.
Similarly, we have large, known deposits of rare earth elements. We have timber in abundance.
The problem is, like many things, federal and, in some instances, state regulations make it cost-prohibitive or outright prohibit our logging, energy, and mining industries from accessing them.
I am not knowledgeable about the other items in your list, so will not comment. Perhaps you know if the situation is the same for those.
William, never trust anyone blindly. Not even me. I will run through this list, one by one, because it’s that important.
But I will add you’ve answered part of your question. The regulations on natural gas and oil are killing America’s capacity.
Here we go:
Here are the top 5 producers:
- Russia: 48 trillion cubic meters (tcm).
- Iran: 33.5 tcm.
- Qatar: 24.7 tcm. Qatar is also the world's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter.
- United States: 10.5 tcm. The development of shale gas resources, particularly in the Marcellus and Utica formations, has significantly contributed to the increase in U.S. reserves.
- Saudi Arabia: 9.2 tcm.
Russia has over 4x as much as the US. But the bigger problem for the US is that it doesn’t have enough ships (thanks to the dreaded Jones Act) to get the stuff around the coasts.
From an earlier Rude:
Not Enough Pipelines in the Northeast
But it’s not entirely [New England’s] fault. Get this from the Yankee Institute:
The main problem is that New England can’t get enough natural gas from the rest of the country. Demand for gas has climbed in recent years because it produces less carbon dioxide for each megawatt it generates, and in many instances, has been more economical than oil or coal. But resistance to natural gas infrastructure, specifically pipelines in New York, have left New England relying on oil for electricity and heat when the gas can’t flow fast enough.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016 used administrative maneuvering to block the proposed Constitution Pipeline, which would have brought gas from Pennsylvania into existing pipelines that supply New England. Several other gas projects were subsequently nixed or withdrawn because of obstacles created by New York state agencies.
Cuomo ostensibly blocked the pipelines because of concerns about carbon dioxide emissions. But as today’s high use of oil and coal shows, constricting the flow of natural gas doesn’t entirely prevent emissions, and in fact, can push them higher.
Cuomo’s crappy policies continue to haunt America.
Ships and Rail
Shipping or railing LNG is much, much more expensive than pipelined gas. (Editor’s Note: This is why thinking Europe will pay for shipped US LNG in perpetuity is insanity.)
And the Jones Act requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on ships constructed in the United States that fly the U.S. flag are owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.
Here’s a scary stat: there’s only one Jones Act-compliant LNG ship being built at the moment, and it won’t be done until 2023.
The rest of the world’s LNG fleet was built abroad.
So not only does the US have much less natural gas than Russia, it can’t ship the stuff around the country.
Here is a list of the top countries by proven oil reserves as of 2023:
- Venezuela - 302 million barrels - Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves, but much is heavy or extra-heavy crude oil.
- Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia's reserves are primarily light and medium crude grades.
- Canada - Canada's reserves are primarily in the form of oil sands, which are a type of heavy oil.
- Russia (106 million barrels)
- United Arab Emirates
- United States (47.1 billion barrels) The U.S. has a mix of light and heavy crude but has significant light oil production from shale formations.
The US is indeed the world’s largest producer but doesn’t have the world’s largest reserves.
But the bigger problem is that most of the US’s crude is light. Heavy crude is required for fuel oil, marine oil, asphalt, and lubricants.
Here’s a list of countries with significant nickel reserves according to the data up until 2021. Please note these reserves include both laterite and sulfide ore types:
- Indonesia - Indonesia is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of nickel. As of 2020, the nickel reserves in Indonesia were estimated to be around 21 million metric tons.
- Australia - approximately 19 million metric tons
- Brazil - around 16 million metric tons
- Russia - approximately 6.9 million metric tons
- Cuba - 5.5 million metric tons
- Philippines - 4.8 million metric tons
The US doesn’t have significant nickel deposits at all. Without nickel, you can’t make stainless steel, some alloys, or batteries.
Palladium, a precious metal primarily used in the automotive industry for catalytic converters, is mined in a few countries worldwide. The production of palladium often comes as a byproduct of mining for other metals, especially nickel and platinum.
Here are the top countries in terms of palladium production as of 2022. Please note this one is production, not deposits:
- Russia - 88 metric tons - Russia is the largest producer of palladium. The Norilsk Nickel company in Russia is the world's leading palladium producer.
- South Africa - 80 metric tons - South Africa is the second-largest palladium producer. The Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa contains some of the richest ore deposits in the world, including significant quantities of palladium.
- Canada - 15 mt - Canada is also a significant palladium producer, particularly from mines in the Sudbury Basin in Ontario and the Lac des Iles mine in western Ontario, among others.
- United States - 12 mt - The U.S. contributes to global palladium production, specifically the Stillwater and East Boulder mines in Montana.
- Zimbabwe - 11 mt - Zimbabwe also produces a significant amount of palladium, primarily from the Great Dyke region.
Here are the top countries in terms of platinum production (again, not deposits) as of 2021:
- South Africa - 130,000 kg in total - South Africa has the world's largest platinum reserves and is the largest producer, contributing to over 70% of the world's production. Most of the production comes from the Bushveld Igneous Complex, estimated to contain around 63,000 metric tons of platinum.
- Russia - 22,000 kg - Russia is the second-largest producer of platinum, with Norilsk Nickel being the largest Russian producer. The company extracts platinum as a by-product of nickel and copper mining.
- Zimbabwe - 15,000 kg - Zimbabwe is also a significant producer of platinum, mainly from the Great Dyke region, a geological feature rich in metals.
- Canada - 7,400 kg In Canada, platinum is often produced as a by-product of nickel mining, particularly in the Sudbury region of Ontario.
- United States - 3,600 kg - The United States produces some platinum, mainly from the Stillwater mine in Montana.
We’re already running long on this Rude, so I’ll wrap it up here.
Tomorrow, I’ll tackle 6 through 10 on our resource list.
Have a wonderful day!