Material Flows From Foreign Trade

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The second part of society's industrial metabolism stems from the interaction with other economies. In the UK case, not surprisingly, fossil fuels are also the main component of imports and exports. Imports of fossil fuels became relevant after World War II and reached a peak during 1970-74, when around 130 million tons (mainly crude oil) were imported yearly. Up to this point, fossil fuels also made a dominant contribution to the UK exports, mainly as coal. This changed with the start of the North Sea gas and oil industry. Since around 1975, imports of fossil fuels have decreased considerably while exports have exploded. If we look at the foreign trade with fossil fuels from the perspective of a physical net balance of trade, the UK began to be a net importer of fossil fuels in the 1950s, reaching a maximum of 115.5 million tons import surplus. But 1973, the year of the first oil crisis, seems to be a turning point. By 1981, the UK was a net exporter of fossil energy carriers. Except for 1988-94, this has continued. For all other materials, the UK economy relies mainly on imports from other countries (see Figure 26.1). Interestingly, Vaze et al. (1998) argue that the dependence of the UK economy on foreign resources is predominantly satisfied through trade relations with other European countries.

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