NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Most Energy Efficient Major Country On Earth

May 29, 2001

There has been a vast increase in energy efficiency, notes Bruce Bartlett.

  • In 1973, it took 18,380 BTUs of energy to produce $1 of real gross domestic product in the United States.
  • Last year, it only took 10,570 BTUs to produce $1 of GDP.
  • The improvement has been even greater, looking only at oil and natural gas: between 1973 and 2000, consumption of these fuels fell from 13,910 BTUs to just 6,580 BTUs per $1 of GDP -- better than a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency.

Thus, since 1973, while real GDP -- total output, adjusted for inflation -- has risen 125 percent, total energy use has only risen 30 percent, from 75.8 quadrillion BTUs to 98.5 quadrillion BTUs.

And the oil and natural gas consumption has increased just 7 percent in 27 years.

What has happened is conservation, through such things as the increased fuel efficiency of vehicles. As a consequence, the U.S. is by far the most energy efficient major country on earth.

  • According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for every $1 million of GDP produced here, just 76 tons of oil-equivalent were needed; for the OECD as a whole, the average was 151 tons. The next most energy efficient nation was Switzerland (80 tons), followed by Japan (89 tons), Denmark (90 tons) and Italy (110 tons).
  • The least energy efficient nation, the Czech Republic, consumed an astonishing 453 tons of oil-equivalent for every $1 million of GDP it produced.

These data suggest that countries with the highest productivity levels are also the most energy efficient.

If energy conservation is really what we want, higher energy prices, incentives for capital investment and free trade will bring it about.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, May 28, 2001.


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