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International trade and the energy intensity in Europe, 1870-1935


  • Paul Warde

    (University of Cambridge)

  • Astrid Kander

    (Lund University)

  • Sofia Teives Henriques

    (Lund University)

  • Hana Nielsen

    (Lund University)

  • Viktoras Kulionis


"Previous research suggests there is an inverted U-shape curve for energy intensity in the long-run for Western Europe with a peak in the early 20th century. The upswing of the curve in the phase of early industrialization in the second half of the 19th century was due to the performance of two large coal-based economies: Germany and Britain. Other European countries either had a flat or declining energy intensity curve in that period. This paper tests the hypothesis that the increase of German and British energy intensity was an effect from the concentration of heavy industrial production to these countries, although the consumption of a significant share of these goods took place elsewhere. Perhaps Germany and Britain, as the ‘workshops of the world’, were doing the dirty work for goods consumed by others, as is argued for China today. We use an entirely new database that we have constructed (TEG: Trade, Energy, Growth) to test if these countries exported more energy-demanding goods than they imported, thus providing other countries with means to industrialize and to consume cheap energy demanding goods. The analysis confirms our hypothesis. The pronounced German curve without trade adjustments entirely disappears when we account for energy embodied in the traded commodities. For Britain the EKC curve changes into a fluctuating pattern during the second half of the 19th century, before falling from WWI onwards. On balance for the total of our sample of seven European countries the upward slope of the curve also disappears when trade is taken into account. Still, for Europe as a whole it is not likely that the curve disappears, but rather becomes weaker, after trade adjustment."

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  • Paul Warde & Astrid Kander & Sofia Teives Henriques & Hana Nielsen & Viktoras Kulionis, 2016. "International trade and the energy intensity in Europe, 1870-1935," Working Papers 16026, Economic History Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehs:wpaper:16026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sofia Teives Henriques & Paul Sharp, 2016. "The Danish agricultural revolution in an energy perspective: a case of development with few domestic energy sources," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(3), pages 844-869, August.
    2. Henriques, Sofia Teives & Borowiecki, Karol Jan, 2014. "The Drivers of Long-run CO2 Emissions: A Global Perspective since 1800," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 13/2014, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
    3. Stern, David I., 2004. "The Rise and Fall of the Environmental Kuznets Curve," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1419-1439, August.
    4. Gales, Ben & Kander, Astrid & Malanima, Paolo & Rubio, Mar, 2007. "North versus South: Energy transition and energy intensity in Europe over 200 years," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 219-253, August.
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    JEL classification:

    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General


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