Capital in the American carbon, energy, and material footprint

Peter Berrill*, T. Reed Miller, Yasushi Kondo, Edgar G. Hertwich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Stocks of fixed capital play a vital role in fulfilling basic human needs and facilitating industrial production. Their build-up requires great quantities of energy and materials, and generates greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution. Capital stocks influence economic production and environmental pollution through their construction and over subsequent decades through their use. We perform an environmental footprint analysis of total consumption, capital investment, and capital consumption in the United States for 2007 and 2012. In 2012, capital consumption accounted for 13%, 19%, and 40% of total carbon, energy, and material footprints, respectively. Housing, federal defense, state and local government education and other services (including household consumption of roads), personal transport fuels, and hospitals are the consumption sectors with largest capital footprints. These sectors provide fundamental needs of shelter, transport, education, and health, underlying the importance of capital services. Endogenizing capital causes the biggest proportional increase to footprints of sectors with low environmental multipliers. This work builds upon existing input-output models of production and consumption in the United States, and provides a capital-inclusive database of carbon, energy, and material footprints and multipliers for 2007 and 2012. This article met the requirements for a gold – gold JIE data openness badge described at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-600
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 1


  • carbon emissions
  • environmental intensity
  • infrastructure
  • input-output life cycle assessment (IO-LCA)
  • private capital flows
  • system of national accounts (SNA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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