Monday, July 18, 2011
The above graph shows per capita oil consumption versus the retail price of gasoline in 22 developed countries. The 2010 oil consumption data come from BP, the population figures from Wikipedia, and the 2010/2011 gasoline prices from GTZ.
This is a rough exercise - ideally I would have liked to compare vehicle fleet efficiency to retail gas prices, but haven't found suitable cross-country statistics yet. That probably accounts for some of the outliers. For example, the Netherlands, a dense country with high use of non-auto transportation, nonetheless has high oil usage per capita due to a large petrochemical industry.
Nonetheless, there is a clear inverse relationship, in which each additional $/gallon in gas prices is associated with using 1.5 barrels/person less each year. This is, of course, a very long-term relationship - differences between different country's oil consumption is caused by factors like the density of the built environment - differences that have been building for over a century - as well as by the nature of the vehicle fleet which changes over a decade or two.
Currently, no developed country runs on less than about 9 barrels/person/year, with the leaders being Portugal, Italy, the UK, and France.