The International Energy Agency's recent Statistical Review illustrated a number of features of the world energy market but one crucial feature stood out: Asia-Pacific's tiny share of total oil reserves.
According to their figures, the Asia-Pacific region has 41 billion barrels of oil reserves, 2.7% of total proven global oil resources, while accounting for 29 billion barrels of annual consumption, or 30% of total global consumption.
Proven Oil Reserves (Thousand Million Barrels), 2012
Source: International Energy Agency, 2013 Statistical Review
Looking at the distribution of those reserves, India and China, the powerhouse economies of the region with the greatest potential for growth in the coming ten years, have some of the smallest proven reserves available to them, while Vietnam and Thailand have some of the largest reserves.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable why China is putting so much emphasis on building trade infrastructure and energy links throughout the region. Also, it puts into sharp relief why so much importance is being put on sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Spratley and Paracel Islands, since they alone are estimated to hold 11 million barrels of oil (EIA estimates), or more than 25% of Asia-Pacific's oil resources.