Developing-Nation Energy

Marco Stanchi
November 23, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Pictured above is a Samoan home, illustrating Samoa's low position on the global GDP rating. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Is there a correlation between a country's GDP and their total energy consumption? This has been a hot political debate over the past years with the rise of energy consumption and the crucial influence of GDP in the behavior of countries. To assess whether this correlation is present, I set out to graph various countries by their GDP and Total Energy use. For reference, this experiment looks to examine how the wealth that we Americans see every day is impacted by energy in comparison to countries such as Samoa. Their degree of poverty is illustrated in Fig. 1.

Before delving into the results and specifics, it's crucial to understand the importance of this issue. On one hand, there are those that wish this correlation doesn't exist so that it can be generally accepted that the development of a country has nothing to do with its energy use. In contrast are those that hope for the correlation to justify the claim that a country's energy use is directly affected by the wealth of that country. The political implications for the results will be discussed in the conclusion.


To measure the relationship between GDP and energy consumption, I took the following three steps: (1) Find reliable statistics on country GDP numbers and total energy consumption by country. (2) Select the top five countries by GDP and the bottom five by GDP whom there were also energy consumption statistics for. (3) Graph the six countries chosen and divide their GDP number by their total consumption number to yield their dollars per joule. The relationship between numbers will be further discussed in the conclusion.

With discrepancies among sources, finding appropriate GDP numbers posed a large challenge. To overcome this, I ensured that the sources used were verified and respected sources: generally, government sponsored websites.


Country Name Rank GDP Total Energy Consumption Dollars per Joule
USA 1 $1.795 × 1013 9.548 × 1019 joules 1.879 × 10-7 $ per joule
China 2 $1.086 × 1013 1.261 × 1020 joules 8.612 × 10-8 $ per joule
Japan 3 $4.123 × 1012 1.877 × 1019 joules 2.196 × 10-7 $ per joule
Samoa 184 $7.610 × 108 2.566 × 1018 joules 2.965 × 10-10 $ per joule
Dominica 187 $5.380 × 108 4.186 × 1018 joules 1.285 × 10-8 $ per joule
Tonga 188 $4.340 × 108 2.566 × 1018 joules 1.691 × 10-10 $ per joule
Table 1: Top 3 GDP Nations vs. Bottom 3 GDP Nations. [1,2]

Table 1 shows the GDP numbers for three of the top countries and three of the lower end countries (in terms of their ranking). The next column shows the total energy consumption of those countries. The third and most important column shows the dollars per joule value which can be derived simply by dividing the total energy by that country's GDP number. The reason for this is that if one looks at a countries income, it may be curious to see if there is a correlation between that and how much energy they are consuming.


The Dollars per Joule number essentially tells one how many dollars of GDP that one joule of energy buys in that country. The results indicate that all ratios are about equal implying that there is a correlation between development and energy use. Furthermore, one could reason that undeveloped countries use less energy than developed countries.

Politically, its clear that the countries with higher GDPs tend to use more energy while less developed countries aren't as reliant on energy. Among many factors, the inferior technology among these undeveloped countries is likely responsible for the lack of energy consumption. With increasing wealth comes increased technological advancements and more energy consumption.

© Marco Stanchi. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Gross Domestic Product 2015," World Bank, October 2016.

[2] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016," British Petroleum, June 2016.