A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Carson Overlooks Russia’s Reserves


Ben Carson said the United States has more oil and natural gas than Russia. Not so.

The U.S. recently passed Russia in production of petroleum and natural gas, but estimates put Russia’s proved reserves of crude oil and natural gas way ahead of the U.S.

Carson, a Republican presidential contender, made the claim while talking about his foreign relations goals during a June 23 interview with WGCL-TV in Atlanta (at 8:15 in the video):

Carson, June 23: I think we need to be looking at people like Vladimir Putin and saying “How do we keep him contained?” Obviously, economically. And what’s his big economic thrust? Oil. Who’s got more oil than he does? We do. Who’s got more natural gas than he does? We do. And if we learn how to use that in a geopolitical sense, we can put him in this little box and make Europe dependent on us.

But Carson answered his own questions incorrectly.

Proved Reserves

In 2014, the U.S. had 37 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves and 338 trillion cubic feet of proved natural gas reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Proved energy reserves, as defined by the EIA, are “estimated quantities of energy sources that analysis of geologic and engineering data demonstrates with reasonable certainty are recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions.”

In that sense, the U.S. is far behind Russia, which, in 2014, had proved reserves totaling 80 billion barrels of crude oil and 1,688 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In fact, no country has more proved natural gas reserves than Russia, according to EIA figures. And just seven countries have more proved crude oil reserves than Russia. They are: Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

No. 1 in Production

The U.S. is currently the largest producer of petroleum and natural gas. But that’s different from having more oil and gas than Russia, which is what Carson said.

The U.S. produced 24,334 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2013, according to EIA‘s most recent data. That was more than second place Russia’s 22,139 billion cubic feet.

And the U.S. produced 13.97 million barrels of petroleum per day in 2014, according to EIA figures. Saudi Arabia, with 11.62 million barrels per day, and Russia, with 10.85 million barrels per day, were second and third, respectively.

Figures for petroleum production include crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, condensates and other refined liquids. So it’s worth mentioning that based on just production of crude oil including lease condensate, the U.S. (8.65 million barrels per day) still trailed Russia (10.1 million barrels per day) and Saudi Arabia (9.7 million barrels per day) last year.

– D’Angelo Gore, with Eugene Kiely