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Expressing the arguments in terms of global economics changes the perspective. One school of thought contends that western economies, particularly the US, drain great amounts of energy and natural resources. The US, with only 5% of the world’s population is castigated for its disproportionate consumption. On closer inspection, the argument is shot full of holes.
Economically, the US is the most productive nation on earth. In 2008, the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more that $13 trillion accounted for almost 30% of the world’s GDP of just over $42 Trillion. The populations of China and India combined total about 2.48 billion people or more than eight times that of the US. Yet their combined GDP (China #4 at $2.7 Trillion and India, #14 at less than $1 Trillion) is less than one fifth of the US alone. When translated to GDP per capita (per person) China and India together average $1,500 per capita. Dividing the US GDP of $13.2 Trillion by a 305 million population is about a stunning $43,000 per person, almost 30 times greater.
Thus, it is no mystery why the US consumes more energy; it the most productive. Yet still, some raise the specious argument that the US consumes not only its own natural resources but those of many other countries. Of course it does in order to produce goods and services that the rest of the world wants and/or needs. The US ability to do business and economic infrastructure based on capitalism is a major reason the US continues to lead the world.
This economic picture is constantly changing. In August 2010, China surpassed Japan to become the world’s number two economic power behind the US. One estimate from the US Department of Energy projects that China will consume 28% of global energy by 2030, triple the amount it used in 1990. The same study predicts that China will overtake the US in energy consumption by 2015 so indeed, we must have a mastery of global economics.
The role of green purchasing in sustainability springs largely from it preeminence in reducing costs. Political arguments can get in the way of that responsibility so we raise the argument here and deliberately translate it to economic terms so that we can focus on the issues and do what we do best.