Atlantic Economic Journal

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 43–52 | Cite as

Substitutions among energy imputs in U.S. manufacturing

  • David Burras Humphrey

Summary and Conclusion

With cross-section data on the purchases of four energy inputs by 11 U.S. manufacturing industries, Allen partial cross elasticities of input substitution and own price elasticities of demand were computed. The sample set represents 85 percent of total manufacturing energy demand in 1962. The substitution elasticities between fuel oil and natural gas, fuel oil and purchased electricity, and between natural gas and electricity, were statistically significant for about half of the 11 two-digit SIC industries studied. These elasticities ranged between 12.9 and 1.7 with half of them less than 4.0.

Importantly, the elasticity of substitution between coal and the above three energy inputs was significantly different from zero in only three manufacturing industries (comprising some 35 percent of total manufacturing energy demand). Thus it would appear that only three U.S. manufacturing sectors will contribute towards the substitution of domestic for international energy sources. Indirect substitution between energy sources, with the consequent implications for the balance of payments, will primarily have to come from the substitution of electricity (from coal-fired plants) for natural gas (from Canada) and fuel oil (indirectly from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America).

Similar substitution results were found when all 11 industries were aggregated together or divided into large and small energy demand groups. As well, there appear to be no significant differences in overall substitution response between the two categories of large and small energy users. Supporting the substitution results, we found that the own price elasticity of demand for coal to be about −.5 and not different from zero while the price elasticities for natural gas, fuel oil, and purchased electricity were between −.7 and −2.67 (and statistically different from zero).

As a general conclsuion, the substitution of domestic coal for other energy inputs will primarily have to come indirectly through greater use of coal to produce electricity which is purchased by the manufacturing sector. The scope for direct substitution of coal for other energy inputs in U.S. manufacturing is limited to only three sectors and cannot be expected to have an exceptionally large impact on mitigating the inflation and blanace of payments implications of the recent increases in the price of imported energy inputs.


Energy Input Manufacturing Industry Price Elasticity Manufacturing Sector Substitution Elasticity 
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Copyright information

© Atlantic Economic Society 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Burras Humphrey
    • 1
  1. 1.Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve SystemUSA

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