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  • Transport consuming most energy in developed world

    Transport is the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world, consuming more than industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found for the second consecutive year. In the EU, transport still lags behind industry in total final energy consumption, but the gap is narrowing, and road transport’s continued reliance on oil is making the sector increasingly slow to embrace lower-emission energy.

    The IEA looked at energy consumption in 2013 in the OECD, which excludes Russia, some EU members and leading developing countries like Brazil, China and India. Its findings show transport was responsible for 33% of final energy consumption, followed by industry with 31% and residential use with 20%. These shares have reversed since 1971, when industry accounted for 41% of total final consumption and transport for 24%.

    In the OECD European countries, industry is still the bigger consumer, but transport is closing the gap. Oil still makes up around 95% of all transport fuels in the EU, while industry has a roughly equal mix of coal, oil, gas, electricity and other sources, which include biofuels and waste.

    The figures need to be treated with care. They refer to total final energy consumption, so only to end-users of energy – this means the power sector is not included because it supplies energy to end-users. In addition, the figures refer to the developed world, not the whole world, so comparisons with 1971 have to take into account the fact that the industrial sector is not as important to developed countries as it was then, as much industrial production has moved to countries like China which is not in the OECD.

    T&E’s energy analyst Carlos Calvo Ambel said: ‘These figures reflect a growing demand for transport that is not sustainable in the long run if we are to tackle climate change. They should act as a call for energy efficiency, which in turn means ambitious standards for all transport modes to reduce their energy consumption. If energy efficiency in transport is not dealt with, total final consumption will keep growing. And if the largest consumer of final energy is not dealt with, then we are wasting our time.’

    The share of transport in 2013 was largest in very large countries, like the US, Mexico and Australia, all with shares around 40%. An exception was in Luxembourg (57%), which has high levels of transport final energy consumption because of price-driven fuel tourism.