The poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption.

by the United States

In the United States:

Reducing consumption without reducing use is a costly delusion. If undeveloped countries consumed at the same rate as the US, four complete planets the size of the Earth would be required. People who think that they have a right to such a life are quite mistaken.

         Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of the world's energy.

         On average, one American consumes as much energy as

o        2 Japanese

o        6 Mexicans

o        13 Chinese

o        31 Indians

o        128 Bangladeshis

o        307 Tanzanians

o        370 Ethiopians

         The population is projected to increase by nearly 130 million people - the equivalent of adding another four states the size of California - by the year 2050.

         Forty percent of births are unintended.

         Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day - that's roughly 200 billion more than needed - enough to feed 80 million people.

         Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.

         The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.

         The average individual daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world's population lives on 25 gallons.

         Fifty percent of the wetlands, 90% of the northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of the tall-grass prairie have been destroyed in the last 200 years.

         Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock.

         Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production.

         Every day an estimated nine square miles of rural land are lost to development.

         There are more shopping malls than high schools.

Percent of World Total


United States


Developed Countries


Undeveloped Countries

Other Facts:

                     250 million people have died of hunger-related causes in the past quarter-century roughly 10 million each year.

                     700 to 800 million people, perhaps even as many as a billion, don't get enough food to support normal daily activities

                     Africa now produces 27% less food per capita than in 1964.

                     1.7 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and by the year 2000, the number of urban dwellers without access to safe water and sanitation services is expected to grow by 80%.

                     0.1% of pesticides applied to crops reaches the pest, the rest poisons the ecosystem.

                     Each year 25 million people are poisoned by pesticides in less developed countries, and over 20,000 die.

                     One-third of the world's fish catch and more than one-third of the world's total grain output is fed to livestock.

                     It takes an average of 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat in modern Western farming systems. It takes 5,214 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.

                     Each person in the industrialized world uses as much commercial energy as 10 people in the developing world.

source: Paul Ehrlich and the Population Bomb

Population and Energy Consumption

The population problem isn't just a matter of the number of people. People consume food, fresh water, wood, minerals, and energy as we go about our daily lives. And producing food, pumping groundwater, harvesting wood, mining minerals, and burning fuel all deplete our resource base.

One indicator of environmental impact is to measure our energy consumption. As much of our energy is consumed and depleted, it also is increasing pollution. And unlike a lot of environmental factors that are hard to measure, we have very precise records of how much energy is being consumed each year by each country of the world. So we can estimate how much environmental impact each country creates.

Click to Compare to USA

Population     Energy Consumption















Russian Federation




















United Kingdom




South Africa



graph scale
Percent of Global Total

When you click on one of the countries at right, you'll see how that country compares to the United States in the size of its population, the amount of energy it consumes as a country, and the amount of energy consumed per person.

You may be surprised to see how much energy people consume... but remember that we're not just looking at their electricity bills! Every time you buy something, you're also buying all the energy that was used to produce that thing. Every time you pay your taxes, you're paying for photocopies, business trips, and air conditioning in government offices. In fact, on average, every time anyone spends an American dollar, the energy equivalent of half a liter of oil is burned to produce what that dollar buys!

Why single out the U.S.A.?

Why are we focusing on the United States? Because it consumes far more energy than any other country -- more than China and Russia put together. Just five percent of the world's population consumes 23% of its energy! That's really extravagant! Imagine if you wasted five times more gasoline as your neighbors... or five times more food... or produced five times more garbage. Your neighbors wouldn't be very happy! Yet, that's what we're doing.

How much energy does the average American consume? Well, if you list the countries of the world in order by their population (as we've done in the graph above), the U.S. comes in third... but the combined energy consumption of the other five largest added together doesn't match U.S. energy consumption! In other words, the 5% of the world's population that lives in the U.S. has more environmental impact than the 51% that live in the other five largest countries.

That's why we've singled out the United States for comparison here ... its energy consumption is truly extraordinary!

What's the Point?

The purpose of this exercise isn't to blame people in rich countries for wasting energy, because for the most part they don't know they're doing it. It's not to say each person in a poor country is as poor as every other person in that country, because there are rich and poor people in every country. And it's not to imply that all we need to do is consume less energy and everything will be OK. The point is that the population problem isn't just something "over there" in "those poor countries," where they may be having more children. From a consumption perspective, the developed countries have a bigger population growth problem than the developing countries!

Next time you hear about a woman in India who has seven children, remember that she'd have to have more than 20 children to match the impact of an American woman with just one child. And an immigrant who moves to the U.S. is likely to consume far more energy just by moving here. Even if he scrimps and saves energy at home, every thing he buys will increase consumption of energy and other resources.

Data courtesy of BP, "Statistical Review of World Energy 2007;" and Wikipedia (compiled from various sources), 2007.

Here's how much meat the average American consumed, by type, in 2007:

Chicken: 84.9 pounds

Beef: 63.5 pounds

Pork: 48.2 pounds

Turkey: 17.5 pounds

Lamb and Mutton: 1 pound

Source: National Turkey Federation:

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