Population and Energy Consumption

The population problem isn't just a matter of the number of people. People consume food, fresh water, wood, minerals, and energy as we go about our daily lives. And producing food, pumping groundwater, harvesting wood, mining minerals, and burning fuel all deplete our resource base and produce pollution.

One critical indicator of environmental impact is to measure our energy consumption. When you click on one of the countries in the graph below, you'll see how that country compares to the United States in the size of its population, the amount of energy it consumes as a country, and the amount of energy consumed per person.

Why single out the U.S.A.?

Why are we focusing on the United States? Because Americans make up only 5% of the world's population and yet consume nearly 20% of its energy! That's really extravagant! Imagine if you consumed four times more gasoline as your neighbors... or four times more food... or produced four times more garbage. Your neighbors wouldn't be very happy! Yet, that's what we're doing.

In fact, on average, every time an American spends a dollar, the energy equivalent of a cup of oil is used to produce what that dollar buys! That's why we've singled out the United States for comparison here ... its energy consumption is truly extraordinary!

Population and Energy Consumption by Country

 

Country:
click to
compare to USA
Population
Energy consumption
Hover over bar for actual data
  Percent of global total
graph scale
China 1,350 million people
18,256 million barrels of oil equivalent
India 1,260 million people
4,123 million barrels of oil equivalent
USA 314 million people
16,389 million barrels of oil equivalent
Indonesia 241 million people
1,107 million barrels of oil equivalent
Brazil 194 million people
2,085 million barrels of oil equivalent
Pakistan 180 million people
456 million barrels of oil equivalent
Bangladesh 153 million people
136 million barrels of oil equivalent
Russian Federation 143 million people
5,435 million barrels of oil equivalent
Japan 128 million people
3,501 million barrels of oil equivalent
Mexico 116 million people
1,337 million barrels of oil equivalent
Philippines 96 million people
225 million barrels of oil equivalent
Germany 82 million people
2,322 million barrels of oil equivalent
Egypt 82 million people
610 million barrels of oil equivalent
Turkey 75 million people
871 million barrels of oil equivalent
Iran 79 million people
1,663 million barrels of oil equivalent
France 64 million people
1,844 million barrels of oil equivalent
Thailand 70 million people
888 million barrels of oil equivalent
United Kingdom 63 million people
1,488 million barrels of oil equivalent
Italy 61 million people
1,236 million barrels of oil equivalent
South Africa 51 million people
979 million barrels of oil equivalent
  graph scale
Percent of global total

 

Population data source: Population Reference Bureau; 2012 World Population Data Sheet.

Energy data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration 2012.

 

What's the Point?

The purpose of this exercise isn't to blame people in rich countries for wasting energy, because for the most part they don't know they're doing it. It's not to say each person in a poor country is as poor as every other person in that country, because there are rich and poor people in every country. And it's not to imply that all we need to do is consume less energy and everything will be OK. The point is that the population problem isn't just something "over there" in "those poor countries," where they may be having more children. From a consumption perspective, the developed countries have a bigger population problem than the developing countries!

Next time you hear about a woman in India who has 7 children, remember that she'd have to have more than 15 children to match the impact of an American woman with just one child!