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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.
    2. Canas, Angela & Ferrao, Paulo & Conceicao, Pedro, 2003. "A new environmental Kuznets curve? Relationship between direct material input and income per capita: evidence from industrialised countries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 217-229, September.
    3. Roberts, Mark C., 1996. "Metal use and the world economy," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 183-196, September.
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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. 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.
    4. 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.

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