We can calculate how countries’ energy footprint changes once we adjust for traded goods. To do this we take a country’s domestic energy use – its production-based energy use. We then subtract the energy used to produce things that it exports, and add energy used to produce things it imports. The number we’re left with is its consumption-based energy use.

Researcher Viktoras Kulionis calculated this for all the countries with sufficient trade data available.2 Unfortunately the detailed trade data that is needed is not available for many smaller economies. This means that most low-income countries are missing.

In the map we see what countries are net importers and exporters of energy. Net importers are shown in red, and given as positive values. Net exports are in blue, as negative values.

I’ve calculated this energy embedded in trade as a share of each country’s domestic energy. So, Germany had a value of +15% in 2020. This means that its consumption-based energy use is 15% higher than its domestic energy use.

A fairly distinct global pattern emerges. Most of Europe – particularly Western and Southern Europe – and the United States are net importers of embodied energy. The average across these countries is that their net ‘offshoring’ is around 10-15% of domestic energy. This is less than many would assume. Low-to-middle income countries – China, India, Brazil, South Africa – are then net exporters of embodied energy.

Because energy use is the main driver of greenhouse gas emissions, we also see this pattern for carbon dioxide emissions embedded in trade.

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