Fossil fuels burden the trade balance

Imports of fossil energy come at a great expense / Despite price drop high spending for oil, gas and coal

Berlin, January 25th 2017. Despite continuously low fossil fuels prices on international markets, imports of mineral oil, gas and coal still make up large parts of import spending in many countries. This is the case for developing and emerging countries, as well as for many industrialised nations. Recent data from the World Trade Organization (WTO) indicate that in 2015 the cost of global net imports for fossil fuels reached around 1.9 trillion $ (1.7 trillion Euros). “The demand for energy cuts deep holes into state budgets. Pushing the transition to renewable sources, on the other hand, would create the means for urgently needed investments”, explains Managing Director of the German Renewable Energies Agency (AEE), Philipp Vohrer.

According to WTO data, major developing and emerging countries are among the economies that are affected the most by the import dependency on conventional energy sources. India and Pakistan each have to spend one fifth of their entire net import expenses on fossil fuels. India spent 72 billion $ (65 billion Euros) on bringing in conventional fuels in 2015. This was more than half of what was allocated to the public health sector: World Bank data indicates that public health spending in India reached 29 billion $ (26 billion Euros) in 2014. The burden of fossil fuel imports for neighbouring Pakistan is even higher; 22 percent of the import value had to be spent on fossil energy imports.


China, while being the global export champion, had to spend one tenth of its import bill on fossil energy in 2015, despite the significant price drop of oil prices and regardless of the exploitation of its own fossil resources. The net value of all fossil energy sources imported to China in 2015 was about 170 billion $ (154 billion Euros). The hunger for energy is not only burdening the environment and the climate, but also the trade balance of the country.

Germany spent about 60 billion Euros on importing fossil energy in 2015, which equaled a 6 percent share of all goods shipped into the country. Despite the expansion of renewable energy sources on the electricity market, the energy import dependency of the country still stands at 70 percent. “Only if we advance the expansion of renewable energies to the heat and transport sector will we be able to tackle the economic and environmental impact of fossil fuels”, stresses Vohrer. It is in those areas where most of the fossil imports are being consumed. In face of currently increasing oil prices, Vohrer is expecting significantly higher import costs of oil and gas in the future.

Press contact:

German Renewable Energies Agency
(Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien)
Alexander Knebel
Press Officer
Telefon:   +49 (0)30 200535 52