Transport efficiency in development

Transport efficiency around the world

Erik Rauch

The private car is the most inefficient form of transport ever devised. The World Resources Institute's statistics on per capita gasoline usage around the world over the past 40 years reveal some surprising facts about how much driving is done in different countries. The differences between developed countries are much greater than expected: the United States average is 2.5 times as high as as the developed country average, and 5 times (!) the European average.

Consumption in the US and in developed countries as a whole has been roughly steady for the past 30 years, though this probably means that increases in fuel efficiency have been cancelled by increased mileage. Consumption in Europe has decreased somewhat since 1990. Consumption in developing countries is still miniscule at 8% of the developed country level, but growing.

A revealing statistic is the amount of gas used per dollar of GDP. Since gasoline consumption is a rough indicator of the amount of driving, this provides a rough measure of a country's transport efficiency given its level of development. The top ten slots are occupied by rich and poor countries alike. Rich and dense Hong Kong tops the list for efficiency, and Singapore is seventh; their showing is not surprising given that they are entirely urban. Poor countries such as Bangladesh and Congo, where much personal transport is still on foot, are also near the top, showing that these countries do little driving even for their low level of development. Excluding dense city-states, the leading rich counries are Japan, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

The bottom of the list, too, is shared by rich and poor. Oil-rich developing countries like Nigeria, Venezuela and Bahrain make up many of the lowest-ranked countries. Also low are most of the republics of the former Soviet Union, and indeed, most former Communist countries. The United States is 85th out of 122 countries, with roughly the same performance as China.

The top middle-income countries are Argentina (ranked 19th) and Brazil.

Country
Gas
consumption
(liters/
person/yr),
1997
GDP/
capita,
1995
Liters
of Gas/
GDP $
Hong Kong 61.8 22371.9 0.002
Bangladesh 1.8 317.1 0.005
Congo 5.1 826.3 0.006
Nepal 1.5 206.5 0.007
Gabon 38.4 4603.1 0.008
Armenia 7.4 807.7 0.009
Singapore 241.3 25644.9 0.009
Japan 416.8 40944.5 0.010
Austria 334.7 28941.0 0.011
Belgium 332.6 27087.0 0.012
France 324 26458.0 0.012
Morocco 16.1 1270.4 0.012
Netherlands 345.6 25718.6 0.013
Denmark 494.7 34625.6 0.014
Norway 482.2 33708.6 0.014
Switzerland 673.4 43035.6 0.015
Germany 489.8 29561.4 0.016
India 5.9 358.2 0.016
Argentina 142.8 8075.7 0.017
Senegal 9.2 539.8 0.017
Sri Lanka 12.8 726.4 0.017
Angola 8.3 461.1 0.018
Pakistan 8.1 449.2 0.018
Paraguay 34.6 1860.3 0.018
Brazil 86.2 4417.5 0.019
Finland 479.8 24653.0 0.019
Korea 218.9 10686.4 0.020
Peru 50.8 2510.1 0.020
Spain 304 14139.6 0.021
Tanzania 3.3 154.6 0.021
Tunisia 43.1 2011.3 0.021
Uruguay 121.9 5606.5 0.021
Ireland 399 17881.6 0.022
Mozambique 2.5 111.4 0.022
Iceland 605.4 26006.2 0.023
Israel 365.3 15555.5 0.023
Italy 440.9 18974.8 0.023
Sweden 609.8 26284.1 0.023
Congo 19.9 826.3 0.024
Ethiopia 2.6 104.4 0.024
Portugal 264.5 10620.8 0.024
United Kingdom 500.9 18986.0 0.026
Cyprus 307.5 11331.8 0.027
Cameroon 17.3 604.3 0.028
Malta 252.7 8653.1 0.029
Turkey 83.2 2763.2 0.030
United Arab Emirates 571.2 17697.7 0.032
World average
161.4 5042.4 0.032
Zambia 13.8 426.9 0.032
Sudan 9.3 279.0 0.033
El Salvador 57.8 1676.0 0.034
Greece 380.9 10942.7 0.034
Haiti 12.3 348.6 0.035
Philippines 39 1085.0 0.035
Guatemala 53.9 1469.2 0.036
Luxembourg 1596.6 42494.5 0.037
Egypt 36.1 948.9 0.038
Thailand 110.4 2868.6 0.038
Congo 5.1 125.5 0.040
Slovakia 130.6 3249.6 0.040
Brunei Darussalam 705 16937.6 0.041
Kyrgyzstan 30.5 727.3 0.041
Australia 866.7 20327.1 0.042
Hungary 184.9 4367.2 0.042
Indonesia 43 1023.6 0.042
New Zealand 691.8 16397.7 0.042
Algeria 64.1 1470.4 0.043
Chile 180.9 4176.4 0.043
Kenya 15.5 332.7 0.046
Panama 144 3005.0 0.047
Czech Rep 242.2 4929.1 0.049
Costa Rica 129 2540.2 0.050
Croatia 204.2 4024.4 0.050
Oman 283 5615.4 0.050
Ukraine 86.7 1669.3 0.051
Ghana 19.5 366.1 0.053
Honduras 37.3 702.2 0.053
Poland 168.7 3077.1 0.054
Canada 1077.1 19361.5 0.055
Dominican Rep 84.2 1525.3 0.055
China 32.6 573.7 0.056
Malaysia 256.6 4343.3 0.059
Nicaragua 25.4 426.4 0.059
Qatar 829.8 13890.0 0.059
United States 1570 26341.1 0.059
Benin 22.9 376.6 0.060
Kuwait 987.9 15719.3 0.062
Bulgaria 101.4 1542.0 0.065
Romania 95.2 1444.8 0.065
Slovenia 619 9420.4 0.065
Syrian Arab Rep 79.2 1165.4 0.067
South Africa 245.6 3565.8 0.068
Bolivia 63 905.8 0.069
Uzbekistan 69.3 994.9 0.069
Saudi Arabia 484.7 6886.0 0.070
Zimbabwe 46.5 656.2 0.070
Trinidad and Tobago 305 4202.1 0.072
Jordan 87.6 1149.6 0.076
Colombia 160.9 2089.5 0.077
Ecuador 122 1565.4 0.077
Mexico 262.1 3139.4 0.083
Russian Federation 204.6 2347.6 0.087
Viet Nam 24.5 274.0 0.089
Belarus 163.9 1778.3 0.092
Latvia 227.6 2463.0 0.092
Albania 73.1 763.2 0.095
Estonia 313.1 3223.3 0.097
Bahrain 1013.6 9839.1 0.103
Turkmenistan 118.4 1055.1 0.112
Jamaica 197.7 1690.8 0.116
Nigeria 33.8 284.1 0.118
Macedonia 132.9 1115.5 0.119
Venezuela 448.1 3536.9 0.126
Kazakhstan 155.8 1207.1 0.129
Lebanon 485.4 3695.5 0.131
Lithuania 244.2 1848.5 0.132
Congo 19.9 125.5 0.158
Moldova 65.3 380.1 0.171
Azerbaijan 80.2 462.4 0.173
Georgia 126.3 576.8 0.218
Yemen 61.1 245.8 0.248
Tajikistan 195.4 291.3 0.670


The World Resources Institute also has very interesting comparisons of energy consumption in general and on development.