Via Erik Brynjolfsson on Twitter, I found the chart below of US oil consumption and GDP, which is part of a nice interactive by Bloomberg. It’s interesting to take a close look at the data from around 2008 onwards; I’ve made some crude (pun intended) annotations:
Up to about 2011, US oil consumption correlates pretty well with economic activity. The fall in oil consumption from 2008 looks a bit larger than could be explained by the GFC-related recession, but the positive correlation with GDP is still there. So too is the increase in oil consumption during the economic recovery up to 2011. But then from 2011 onwards, the relationship just appears to break.
I’ve made the same picture for New Zealand below. The oil consumption data is from MBIE and the GDP data is Stats NZ’s “SND” GDP series which I can’t link to directly but you can find in the “long term” data series section on Infoshare.
To my eyes the historic correlation between oil consumption and GDP in New Zealand is not as close as in the US, but it’s certainly there. So too is the apparent break in recent years. Interestingly, in New Zealand, the break appears to precede the GFC-recession slightly, with oil consumption peaking in 2007 but the recession not kicking in until 2009.