Energy per capita in Latin America


By Alvaro Rios Roca

Alvaro Rios Roca 
In one way or another, the planet is immersed in the form of what may be called an energy maze. The developing countries, that largely have high vegetative growth, require a high economic in order to be able to develop as a country and to fight against poverty and this in turn translates into enormous new demands for energy. Similarly the developed countries are endeavoring to maintain sustainable rates of economic growth and to safeguard the levels of comfort that they have been enjoying for some decades, thus also requiring sustainable levels of energy.

From this it is clear that energy security is a concern of both the developed and developing countries. Without reliable access to energy, it is practically impossible to develop policies and advances in other sectors such as health and education and others that contribute to the social wellbeing.

This maze becomes even more complicated when energy security must be accompanied by adequate protection to our planet. The only thing that can be done is to move more vigorously from fossil fuels to other renewable forms of energy which are more environmentally friendly and to bet on energy efficiency. And undoubtedly in the next few decades these areas, with political will coupled with the investment that will be placed in research and technological development, will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels – which it must be remembered, are finite.

In this discussion we will present a brief analysis of the per capita consumption of primary energy and oil during the period 2002 to 2006 in some of the countries and regions of the world and also will make a comparison with the situation in Latin America.

First let us look at the region comprising Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). There the per capita consumption of primary energy increased from 1.13 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) to 1.20 toe from 2002 to 2006. In China, the increase over the same period was from 0.83 toe to 1.3 toe. Thus the per capita consumption of primary energy in China is now higher than that of LAC for 2006, with a population 2.3 times larger. In India, where the population is almost twice as large as LAC, the per capita consumption increased from 0.32 toe to 0.37 toe over the same period.

In the US, the per capita consumption of primary energy fell from 7.94 toe to 7.77 toe between 2002 and 2006. The population of the US is almost one half of LAC, while the per capita consumption of primary energy was approximately 6.5 times higher in 2006. In Europe, the per capita consumption for the year 2006 was 4.1 toe – approximately 3.4 times greater than that of LAC and China.

A similar analysis can be carried out for what is perhaps the most important and volatile of the energy resources that we use – oil. The per capita consumption in LAC fell from 4.64 to 4.59 barrels per inhabitant between 2002 and 2006. In China, the opposite occurred and per capita consumption between 2002 and 2006 increased from 1.50 to 2.07 barrels, while in India the per capita consumption went from 0.82 to 0.84 barrels.  

In the US, the per capita consumption of oil remained fairly constant, going from 25 barrels in 2002 to 25.12 barrels in 2006. Thus in the US the per capita consumption of oil in 2006 was almost 5.5 times greater than LAC and more than 12 times greater than China. In Europe, the per capita consumption was 10.21 barrels in 2006.

The average annual growth rates of the per capita consumption of primary energy between 2002 and 2006 are also of interest. For LAC it was 1.78%, India 4.27%, China 14.04%, while for the US it was -0.53%. Likewise for oil the average annual growth rates of per capita consumption were for LAC -0.26%, India 0.36%, China 9.34%, and the US 0.12%.

A brief analysis of these figures indicates that the US, along with several other developed countries, are maintaining or tending to decrease their per capita consumption of primary energy and oil. This is usually achieved through energy efficiency and rates of vegetative growth that are either very low or negative and with moderate economic growth.

In the cases of China and India, the figures show that the average per capita growth rates of both primary energy and oil are high compared with LAC.

The consumption of energy is undoubtedly a measure of the degree of growth and development of a country or a region, where the variable of energy efficiency plays a very important role. China, India and other Asian countries are growing and tend to surpass the limits of per capita energy consumption of the LAC region.

One last comment that can be made from this very simple analysis is that oil is the basis for transportation, rather than a reflection of the industrial potential, productive apparatus or competitiveness, which is reflected in the per capita consumption of primary energy.