There is an uneven distribution of oil resources around the world, with the majority of oil reserves being found in the Middle East, in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Other key countries include Venezuela, Russia and Nigeria.
The distribution of gas is slightly different to that of oil. Although the Middle Eastern countries of Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have large reserves of gas, Russia has the largest proven reserves.
Nearly 75% of all coal reserves are found in only five countries: USA, Russia, China, Australia and India. These countries use a lot of coal and export it around the world for other countries to use. As coal has a damaging environmental impact, many countries are using less and moving towards cleaner energies.
This is a fuel that can be used for a wide range of activities and can even be used to power cars. It is made from growing crops such as maize, which are then converted to bioethanol. It is made in countries which are seeking to reduce the importation of oil, such as the US and Canada, or are rapidly industrialising and require a domestic source of fuel, such as India or China.
It is also made in countries with a large land mass compared to the population, such as Australia. As the process of converting the crop into bioethanol is a technologically advanced process, it tends to be made in developed countries (also known as high-income countries, HIC).
Although many countries do not use solar energy, they still have the potential to do so. The greatest potential is around 30°N and 30°S where the descending arm of the Hadley cell creates high pressure and clear skies, and so therefore a high potential for solar power. Although the Sun’s rays are more intense at the Equator, the constant cloud cover in such areas reduces the potential of solar power there. Northern latitudes such as Scandinavia and Canada have the least potential due to the low intensity of the Sun’s rays as well as the short day length in winter.
Although wind power can occur anywhere, the exposed western coasts of Europe which have prevailing winds have a greater potential than inland continental areas. The southern tip of South America has a particularly high potential due to the regular and high winds associated with the Southern Ocean.
Areas on the Equator such as Brazil and the Congo have a lower potential for wind power because the dominant direction of wind movement here is upwards – as it is part of the ascending arm of the Hadley cell.
The biggest producer of iron ore is Australia, followed by Brazil, China and then India. Much of the iron ore that China and India extract is used in their own countries but Australia exports most of the ore it produces.