What's in all those trucks anyway?
Being a consumer in the global economy has its advantages. We can get stuff from just about anywhere. And that stuff is often made from other stuff that comes from just about anywhere. (To find out where all the different things that make up your products come from, check out the nifty sourcemap.com.)
Of course making goods and getting them to market requires a lot of transportation, a lot of shipping of stuff from one location to another. And all that transportation comes with a price -- and not just the shipping costs that get added to our Amazon bill just before we hit the purchase button. I'm talking about energy and carbon emissions.
So let's take a look at what we're shipping in the United States.*
|Total tons shipped annually in the U.S.:||12.5 billion tons|
|(equivalent to shipping almost 167 billion 150-pound people in a year)|
|Total value of good shipped annually in US:||$11.7 trillion|
|(equivalent to almost 80% of U.S. gross domestic product in 2012)|
|Average miles per shipment:||619 miles|
Percent of Total Tons Shipped by Transportation Mode
|As parcels via U.S. Postal Service or courier||0.03|
Percent of Total Tons Shipped of Selected Commodities
|Coal, coal and petroleum||16|
|Waste and scrap||2.4|
|Gasoline and aviation fuels and fuel oils||13|
|Non-metallic mineral products||11|
|Pulp, paper, printed products, etc.||2.3|
All of the above are based on the Department of Commerce's 2007 Commodity Flow Survey, a report produced every five years. We won't know until December of 2013, when the 2012 report is scheduled for release, what's been happening shipping-wise of late.
But We Can Speculate About Recent Shipping Stats
Between the 2002 and 2007 reports, total U.S. commodity shipping increased by about 7.5 percent, from 11.7 billion tons to 12.5 billion tons. All things being equal, that would suggest that total shipping in 2012 would be about 13.4 billion tons.
But all things have not been equal. The economy tanked in 2008, and the ongoing economic downturn since should have taken a bite of shipping. And coal production has dropped off somewhat since 2007. Since coal accounted for about 16 percent of total U.S. tons shipped in 2007, that drop off should be reflected in the shipping numbers. And don't forget the locavore movement. (LOL.)
So any bets on what the 2012 report will show for total tonnage shipped in the United States? I'm betting it will be down.