Stuff retail

Supermarkets in the UK consume about 11 TWh of energy per year. Shared
out equally between 60 million happy shoppers, that’s a power of 0.5 kWh
per day per person

The significance of imported stuff

In standard accounts of “Britain’s energy consumption” or “Britain’s carbon
footprint,” imported goods are not counted. Britain used to make its
own gizmos, and our per-capita footprint in 1910 was as big as America’s
is today. Now Britain doesn’t manufacture so much (so our energy
consumption and carbon emissions have dropped a bit), but we still love
gizmos, and we get them made for us by other countries. Should we ignore
the energy cost of making the gizmo, because it’s imported? I don’t
think so. Dieter Helm and his colleagues in Oxford estimate that under
a correct account, allowing for imports and exports, Britain’s carbon foot-
print is nearly doubled from the official “11 tons CO2e per person” to about
21 tons. This implies that the biggest item in the average British person’s
energy footprint is the energy cost of making imported stuff.

In Chapter H, I explore this idea further, by looking at the weight of
Britain’s imports. Leaving aside our imports of fuels, we import a little

Figure 15.10. Part of the reverse-osmosis facility at Jersey Water’s desalination plant. The pump in the foreground, right, has a power of 355 kW and shoves seawater at a pressure of 65 bar into 39 spiral-wound membranes in the banks of blue horizontal tubes, left, delivering 1500 m3 per day of clean water. The clean water from this facility has a total energy cost of 8 kWh per m3.