Where does the world's oil come from?
Don't Panic ... Your War Questions Answered
Oil is easy to make.
Just take some plankton, mix it with some mud and dead plants, bury it a few thousand feet underground inside of a nonporous rock, and wait a few million years. Voila, you've got petroleum.
For best results, make sure you bury the stew beneath a location destined to become violent, unstable, undemocratic, or just generally shitty.
Below is a list of the top seven net exporters of oil in 2004, according the U.S. Department of Energy, followed by a short description of what each country is like. The number in parentheses after each country's name is how many million barrels the country exports per day.
As long as we use oil, we should know where it comes from. The U.S.'s daily net oil imports last year averaged 10 million barrels per day.
1) Saudi Arabia (8.73) — Saudi Arabia is ruled by a corrupt, wasteful, incompetent monarchy that has hoarded much of nation's oil wealth for itself while doing little to plan for the long-term economic livelihood of the country's 26 million non-royals.
Saudi oil money supports terrorism directly with cash transfers to terrorist groups, and indirectly by funding schools and mosques that teach people to hate anyone who isn't a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim. But because the U.S. economy is dependent on oil, Saudi Arabia is our ally.
Saudi fun fact: Saudi Arabia's founder, King Ibn Saud, may have fathered up to 200 children before his death in 1953. It's good to be the king.
2) Russia (6.67) — Although it doesn't seem like it, President Vladimir Putin was democratically elected. Since taking office, however, he has tightened his power grip by undemocratic means, including "reorganizing" the government to strip power from local leaders and using his control over the media to discredit political opponents. Incidentally, Putin used to work for the KGB. History will likely remember him for his cruelty and incompetence in dealing with the rebellion in Chechnya.
Russian fun fact: In 2001, President Bush said of Putin, "I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." That pretty much sums up all you need to know about both men.
3) Norway (2.91) — According to the United Nations Development Program, Norway's combination of wealth, education and life expectancy make it the best place on Earth to live.
It's also the only country on this list that's democratic and stable, and whose citizens are prosperous. Not coincidentally, Norway was all of those things before oil was discovered off its shores in the 1960s.
Norwegian fun fact: Norway has squirreled away much of its oil windfall into a fund for future generations worth $180 billion ($39,000 per Norwegian). I wonder who has the PIN.
4) Iran (2.55) — Iran is a Shi'ite Muslim theocracy and the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The country also is developing nuclear weapons. Iran's last real democratic leader was Mohammed Mossadegh. The U.S. government overthrew him in 1953.
Iranian fun fact: Andre Agassi's dad was a boxer for the Iranian Olympic team.
5) Venezuela (2.36) -- Like Putin, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader who has subverted democracy to strengthen his grip on power.
Chavez is an odd man. He's friends with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and once wrote a sweet letter to imprisoned terrorist Carlos the Jackal.
Venezuelan fun fact: This columnist was once accosted by a Venezuelan policeman for disrespectfully attempting to walk — while wearing shorts! — by a statue of Venezuelan patriarch Simon Bolivar.
6) United Arab Emirates (2.33) — A loose federation of seven Persian Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates is well-off and easy-going. Citizens have no say whatsoever in how they are governed, however.
UAE fun fact: The city of Dubai has a hospital just for falcons.
7) Kuwait (2.20) — Like UAE, Kuwait is a tiny Persian Gulf state whose citizens are well-off. The country's ruling Al-Sabah family has created a Parliament, allowed a free-ish press, and even granted women's rights. But it's still the ruling Al-Sabah family.
Kuwaiti fun fact: Kuwait owns 4,000 gas stations in Europe called Q8. Get it?