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Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

Map Monday: Economic Importance of Transport

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Like most people, I am a sucker for a good map. To indulge in this nerdity, I am launching an occasional Map Monday series, beginning with one by Simran Khosla of GlobalPost who used the CIA Factbook to put together an excellent map detailing every country’s highest-valued export.

Economic Importance of Transport. Courtesy of Simran Khosla of GlobalPost. Source: CIA Factbook.

Everyone will draw a different conclusion from the map perhaps, be it the importance of diamonds to Belgium or soft drinks to Swaziland, but what I am seeing is a world economy dominated by energy supplies, and importantly, demand. What we see is a world linked together to power and build transport, from transport equipment in Brazil, to vehicle parts in Canada, to fully assembled motor vehicles in Germany, all fueled by oil and petroleum products from, well, all around the world, from Central Asia to name but one region.

There are several future trends that could heavily disrupt this map. One such example would be electric vehicles, which use fewer parts, but even more importantly, use batteries which are heavy and expensive to ship, and so assembly is actually moving closer to their intended markets. And if vehicles were not running on oil, then one can only imagine how this map would change.

Another world might see the importance of minerals and rare metals decrease as we get better at using alternative materials, perhaps using 3D printers, and others becoming increasingly synthetic.

Either way, it begs the question: how diversified are our economies actually?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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