The Economist : Energy Consumption

Monday, June 14, 2010

America was the world’s biggest consumer of primary energy in 2009, using 2.18 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE), according to BP’s latest statistical review.  This was 5% less than in 2008, and contributed to a recession-driven decline of 1.1% in the world’s energy usage.

China’s energy consumption continued to grow last year, increasing by 8.7% to only 5m TOE less than America’s.  Since 1999, China has more than doubled its consumption.  By contrast, America (like many other rich countries) used less energy last year than it did a decade earlier.  But despite these trends, the average American still used four-and-a-half times as much energy last year as the typical person in China.

Reference : http://www.economist.com/node/16322840?story_id=16322840

2 Responses to “The Economist : Energy Consumption”

  1. akhanna Says:

    So, here’s something I thought of recently, and I wonder what you think about it – the US and China get a lot of crap for consuming energy and releasing greenhouse gases. The US especially gets hit hard when you pull out per capita data, like in the chart above.

    I’m not saying this is right or wrong, but implicit in evaluating per capita data for energy consumption is the idea that every person in the world has some sort of entitlement to a certain amount of energy, and that people in the US consume way more than their fair share. But what if we were to take a more economic view and say that it’s not PEOPLE who have this entitlement, but rather UNITS OF PRODUCTIVITY.

    Essentially, what I’m saying is that another relevant statistic is not just total energy consumption but total energy consumption OVER GDP, or some other measure of economic output. Check out http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/energy-resources/variable-668.html. Basically a measure of how efficient energy consumption is in a country. The US doesn’t do that great, but we do better than China, Canada, Iceland, Singapore, and many others. You’ll notice some interesting trends – that the least efficient countries have economies that are based largely on extractive industry and tend to be less developed (the examples I gave above are the few developed countries that are less “efficient” than the US).

    (But out of those two trends that are noticeable immediately – extractive and developing – it’s difficult to say which is the true “cause” of the inefficiency. There are developing countries all over the spectrum of efficiency, but extractive nations seem to congregate at the top [which may explain Canada’s reported inefficiency and the likely inefficiency of Russia, though data is not available]. Is there something about extraction that promotes inefficient energy usage?)

  2. MMM Says:

    Very interesting. This type of factoring does make a lot more sense. Fresh new thinking in many ways. Here’s my 2 cents worth –

    IMHO, in order to be fair, economies that have already raped and pillaged (too harsh?) the environment to get up to current GDP levels must be “re-factored” in some way before comparing the efficiency of their outputs to developing countries. The fact that they climbed the ladder from extractive to service based economies when there was less sensitivity to the environmental impact of their growth, and when the true cost of carbon emissions was not priced into their outputs, should not disadvantage today’s “developing” nations who are only now accelerating through that phase. Comparing outputs based on today’s snapshot view of the world ignores the cumulative impact of past grossly inefficient growth of “developed” countries.

    Unfortunately, I think the developing world looks into the sky and sees a choked up atmosphere made up predominantly of old carbon particulates painted bright red white and blue.


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