Governments of many industrialized countries have committed themselves to substantially reduce their domestic emissions of greenhouse gases. Emission reductions can be achieved through technology- and/or sector-specific policies. To decide which part of the economy environmental policy should be concentrated at, insight must be gained into the relative importance of the various factors determining domestic aggregate fossil fuel consumption. By applying structural decomposition analysis (SDA) across nations, the factors causing per capita energy use to differ between countries can be identified, which sheds light on where potential energy-saving options can be found. To demonstrate the usefulness of between-country SDA, we apply the technique to a set of 8 OECD countries. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.