Global Energy Usage
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Global Energy Usage

Total Consumption

Global energy consumption has increased steadily for much of the twentieth century, particularly since 1950. In 2011, the world consumed 88 million barrels of oil per day, only a .7 percent increase from 2010 (Statistical Review of World Energy, 2012).  Total energy consumption was higher in 2011 than in 2010, in line with historical averages. Most of the increases came from non-OECD countries (Statistical Review of World Energy, 2012).

U.S. Energy Usage by Sector and Source, 2011


In 2013, for the first time, oil demand in the developing world is expected to be higher than in the industrialized world (Chazen, 2012).The dynamics of energy markets are increasingly being determined by emerging economies. In recent years, there has been an explosion of growth in energy demand from Asia, which eclipsed North America for the first time in 2003 as the world’s most energy hungry region.

Much of this increase in demand came from China and India. As China is rapidly industrializing, its need for energy is constantly growing. According to the IEA, China consumed 9.758 million barrels/day of oil in 2011, compared to the U.S’s 18.835 million barrels/day. While the U.S. consumed twice the amount of oil as China, China’s growth in oil consumption represented 85 percent of total oil consumption in 2011 ((British Statistical Review of World Energy, 2012).

Global energy demand is expected to be about 30 percent higher in 2040 than in 2010. Demand in OECD countries is expected to remain flat; while non-OECD countries are expected to see a 60 percent increase. China’s surge in demand will last for the next twenty years before it flattens (The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, 2012). While China’s oil demand is rising, the country is being affected by the global economic downtown, posting its first drop in oil demand since 2009 (Moore, 2012). Nonetheless, by 2035, China is expected to consume 70 percent more energy than the U.S. Furthermore, India, Indonesia, Brazil and the Middle East all have faster rates of growth in energy consumption than China (World Energy Outlook, 2011).

Per Capita Consumption

Total consumption is only one measurement of energy usage. Others, such as per capita energy consumption and energy intensity, offer more nuanced information about differences among countries. Per capita energy consumption has remained relatively stable since 1980 both worldwide and in the United States (EIA, World Per Capita Primary Energy Consumption, n.d.). This indicates that, although the world’s total consumption has increased, most individuals in most countries use about the same amount of energy they did 20 years ago. From this, we learn that much of the increase in total demand can therefore be attributed to population growth and social transformation—e.g. the integration of millions of people into modern, urbanized communities in China and India.

With that said, per capita figures reveal important variations in the consumption habits of different societies. In 2011, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Belgium all have higher per capita oil consumption than the U.S. (British Statistical Review of World Energy, 2012).

Energy Intensity

Energy intensity is a measurement of the amount of energy required to produce a unit of gross domestic product (GDP). This measure is typically calculated on a national basis. It shows that the economic efficiency of energy usage has improved or remained comparable throughout the world over the last two decades.

 In 1980, 15,000 British thermal units (Btu) of energy were needed for every dollar of GDP produced in the United States, compared with just under 9,000 Btu in 2006, a 40 percent improvement (EIA, World Energy Intensity, n.d.). Most countries, including China, have experienced similar gains in efficiency due to advances in technology and more sophisticated business management practices. According to BP, “since 1970, the amount of energy required to generate $1,000 of GDP has reduced by about a third on average worldwide – from approximately 230 to 155 kilograms of oil equivalent” (Sanyal, 2012).

There are several countries, like Iraq, Iran, and Haiti that are anomalies to this overall improvement. One speculation as to why there is a divergence is that political instability in the areas has disallowed for efficient energy use. This seems plausible, but other regions with political instability, like Sudan or Pakistan have improved their efficiency, negating this reasoning as a definitive answer (EIA, 2009).

U.S. Industrial Energy Use, 2006


Energy efficiency gains are also correlated to structural change in the economies of many developed countries that have transformed from producers of goods to providers of services. Increased global trade has helped make this possible (Mantel, 2006). Some experts estimate that anywhere from 25-50 percent of improvements to energy intensity in the United States may be a result of the shift from a manufacturing to a services-based economy (Mantel, 2006).  By the energy intensity measure, energy usage has become more efficient even as total consumption has continued to grow.


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