Market Snapshot: Why do Canadians use so much oil?

Release date: 2018-01-24

Canada is the 3rd largest consumer of oil per person among the world’s most economically advanced countries (the OECDFootnote 1)Footnote 2. This is primarily due to the transportation sector, which accounts for 60% of Canadian oil demandFootnote 3. The relatively sparse population, number of vehicles on the road, and the long distances people and goods must be transported to cross the country may explain Canada’s relatively high transportation fuel consumption per capita.

The industrial sector accounts for nearly 30% of Canada’s oil demand. Canada has relatively large mining, oil and gas extraction, and manufacturing sectors, which tend to be oil-intensive. Lastly, the commercial and agricultural sectors combined make up 9% of oil demand while the residential sector is 2%. These sectors use oil-based fuels for heating and electricity, with increased demand during the relatively cold, dark Canadian winters. All of these factors paired with a relatively small population contribute to Canada’s high oil use per person.

*Luxembourg estimated for 2016

Source and Description

Source: EIA, World Bank, NEB calculations

Description: This chart shows the four countries in the OECD with the most barrels of oil consumed per 1 000 people. It also shows the average number of oil barrels consumed per capita among all the OECD countries. In 2000, barrels per day of oil consumed per capita were: 40 in Luxembourg; 34 in South Korea; 24 in Canada; and 26 in the United States. In 2000, an average of 14 barrels were consumed per capita among the entire OECD. In 2016, the barrels per day of oil consumed per capita were: 36 in Luxembourg (estimated); 40 in South Korea; 24 in Canada; and 22 in the United States. In 2016, an average of 12 barrels were consumed per capita among the entire OECD.

Many factors can contribute to determining a county’s per capita oil consumptionFootnote 4. For example, in the U.S., a large transportation sector and high level of vehicle ownership contribute to higher oil consumptionFootnote 5. South Korea consumes a lot of oil for manufacturing and refiningFootnote 6. Luxembourg’s transportation sector accounts for 88% of total oil consumption especially freightFootnote 7. With a relatively small population, this results in high oil consumption per capita.

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