One Barrel of Oil Equals…

Crude oil is trading at around $48 per barrel today. This is important because the price of crude oil determines how much we pay to fill the tank of our cars, heat our houses, and it can have a noticeable effect on the stock market and the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, “in 2015, the United States consumed a total of 7.08 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.4 million barrels per day.”

The magnitude of a number as high as 19.4 million is difficult to comprehend, especially when we don’t even understand what each barrel can do. Let’s look at just 1 barrel. Below is a graphic from Visual Capitalist, that shows some of the different uses for crude oil and how much just one barrel can go.

Visual Capitalist
Image Courtesy of Visual Capitalist

This infographic breaks down a barrel of crude oil into 17 different things that we make with it. I found the image after it was posted  on Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture without any accompanying explanation. On its own, the graphic simply shows what can be done with a barrel of oil. It can then be used to make different arguments. One argument that can be made is that oil isn’t so bad, it’s actually incredible in terms of what we can do with it. From an environmental perspective, we can see which oil-based products we use and then conserve based on that knowledge.

It’s fascinating to see that not only can we manipulate data to find answers to different questions, but that we can manipulate the representation of the data in the same way.


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