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Assessing Environmental Impacts Embodied in Manufacturing and Labor Input for the China−U.S. Trade

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journal contribution
posted on 15.01.2010, 00:00 by Ming Xu, Eric Williams, Braden Allenby
Previous studies on environmental impacts embodied in trade have paid little attention to the impacts of labor input, or environmental overhead of labor input (EOLI). EOLI occurs to support lifestyles both in the purchase of goods and services and in the consumption of fuels and electricity by workers. This research investigates both supply chain manufacturing and EOLI energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions embodied in the 2002 China−U.S. trade. EOLI is substantial in scale: 24% of manufacturing energy in the U.S. and 6% for China. The higher share of EOLI in the U.S. is the result of higher energy use to support worker lifestyles. Analysis shows China’s EOLI is dominated by the manufacturing of products consumed by workers, while EOLI on the U.S. side is primarily from workers’ direct consumption. The total manufacturing and EOLI energy and CO2 embodied in the eastbound trade from China to the U.S. are 6.5 exajoules (EJ) of energy (6% EOLI) and 440 million tons (Mt) of CO2 (8% EOLI). The total manufacturing and EOLI energy and CO2 embodied in the westbound trade from the U.S. to China are 424 petajoules (PJ) of energy (19% EOLI) and 25.3 Mt of CO2 (21% EOLI).