How much energy does our global population of nearly 7 billion use every year? According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), total primary energy consumption came to 493 quadrillion — that’s 493,000,000,000,000,000 — BTUs in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available. (One BTU, or British thermal unit, is the amount of energy you’d need to heat up one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.)
That counts energy from all sources: oil, coal, gas, nuclear and renewable.
The world’s largest overall energy consumer in 2008? No surprise there, it’s the US, devouring its way through 100.6 quadrillion BTUs. China was closing in rapidly, though: it consumed 85 quadrillion BTUs in 2008 and will doubtless go even higher when new figures become available.
The country with the greatest per-person primary energy consumption, on the other hand, seems an unlikely one: the British Virgin Islands. According to the EIA, every person on the islands in 2008 consumed an average of 3,316 million BTUs, compared to just 330 million BTUs per capita in the US and 64.6 million BTUs per capita in China.
That figure is extreme, even by island standards. Energy statistics for small island nations are typically high, in large part because they’re usually not connected to a regional electricity grid and often depend on imported oil for generating power. (Before the 2008 economic crisis, the British Virgin Islands also ranked near the top globally in offshore finance.)