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Intensity of use reexamined


  • Phillip Crowson

    (University of Dundee)


The intensity of use hypothesis is widely used both as an explanation of trends in materials consumption over time and as a predictive tool. The paper examines significant weaknesses in the data normally used to test the hypothesis. An examination of long-term trends in the intensity of apparent first use of aluminium, copper and steel in eight countries shows a tendency for usage per unit of GDP to follow an inverted U shape as per capita GDP increases. Cross country comparisons for individual years do not demonstrate such a relationship. Apparent first uses are not always good guides to actual consumption, and the weaknesses in the data are discussed. Per capita GDP is only one influence on materials usage, and the paper looks at other factors, and most notably at the structure of both output and expenditure. China’s intensity of use appears anomalous, raising questions about future trends in its materials usage. Avenues for future research are outlined.

Suggested Citation

  • Phillip Crowson, 2018. "Intensity of use reexamined," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 31(1), pages 61-70, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:31:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s13563-017-0113-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-017-0113-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Antonio Focacci, 2005. "Empirical relationship between total consumption-GDP ratio and per capita income for different metals of a series of industrialised nations," International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 5(4), pages 347-377.
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    2. Zauresh Atakhanova & Peter Howie, 2020. "Metal intensity of use in the era of global value chains," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 33(1), pages 101-113, July.
    3. Baffes,John & Kabundi,Alain Ntumba & Nagle,Peter Stephen Oliver & Ohnsorge,Franziska Lieselotte, 2018. "The role of major emerging markets in global commodity demand," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8495, The World Bank.
    4. Mariia Ostapchuk & Claire Auplat & Pierre Boucard, 2023. "Economic Growth and Scientific Knowledge as Determinants of Innovation Uptake in a Situation of Uncertainty About Environmental or Health Risk," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 14(2), pages 1602-1634, June.
    5. Naoki Sekiguchi, 2019. "Steel trade structure and the balance of steelmaking technologies in non-OECD countries: the implications for catch-up path," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 32(3), pages 257-285, November.
    6. He, Ruifang & Zhong, Meirui & Huang, Jianbai, 2021. "Technological progress and metal resource consumption in the electricity industry—A cross-country panel threshold data analysis," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 231(C).

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