Growing by the gallon

Every country strives for energy efficiency, but assessing it is not an easy task. Since 1971, the OECD’s energy supply per unit of GDP has fallen sharply due to changes in manufacturing output, consumer behaviour, shifts to electricity, technological progress, efficiency drives and so on.
But when comparing total primary energy supply (TPES) to GDP, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the OECD countries, appear the most energy efficient. Care should be taken when comparing these energy intensities.Click here for larger graph.A decrease in the TPES/GDP ratio may reflect a restructuring of the economy by transferring energy-intensive industries like iron and steel out of the country and purchasing energy-intensive products from abroad. Indeed, offshoring may worsen damage to the environment if the contractors abroad are less energy efficient. But a low intensity can also reflect the lower development of highly populated emerging markets, rather than any real marshalling of energy inputs.China has one of the lowest amounts of total primary energy supply per capita, alongside Asia, Africa and Latin America. According to the World Energy Council, primary energy demand in developing countries is expected to triple and form up to two-thirds of global energy demand by 2050. Until then, despite its high efficiency, the OECD still has easily the highest energy supply per head, with an oil equivalent of just under five tonnes, followed closely by much less efficient Russia’s 4.5 tonnes of oil equivalent per capita. OECD Factbook 2008 is available at www.oecdbookshop.org,ISBN 9789264040540©OECD Observer No 267 May-June 2008


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