China surpasses US as world’s top energy consumer

the Three Gorges Dam, from within

Monday, July 19, 2010

For the first time in more than a century, a country other than the United States consumed more energy than any other nation, as China grabbed the top spot last year.

Citing data from the International Energy Agency, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that China was the world’s most voracious consumer of energy in 2009.

China consumed 2,252 million tonnes of “oil equivalent” last year, topping the U.S. tally of 2,170 tonnes by roughly four per cent.

Oil equivalent is the term the IEA uses to bring all forms of energy into a comparable form, including crude oil, nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydroelectricity, wind and solar power.

China was forecast to overtake the U.S. at some point over the next decade. But the global recession appears to have sped up the process as its economy continued to expand at a double-digit pace while the U.S. economy declined and oil consumption flatlined.

Only 10 years ago, China’s energy consumption was half that of the United States.

“The fact that China overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer symbolizes the start of a new age in the history of energy,” IEA chief economist Fatih Birol was quoted as saying.

China had already passed the United States as the world’s largest polluter several years ago.

With a population of a little over 300 million, the United States still uses much more energy, per capita, than China does.

In terms of the use of crude oil specifically, the IEA says the United States remains well out in the lead, consuming some 19 million barrels per day. But China’s economy relies on coal for much of its electricity generation, and its crude consumption is also climbing from its current level of just over nine million barrels per day.

China’s electricity demand is forecast to increase by 1,000 gigawatts over the next 15 years — equivalent to the U.S.’s total electricity output at the moment.

the Three Gorges Dam, from without

PARIS — China has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest energy consumer, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday. China immediately questioned the calculation.

The Paris-based agency said China’s 2009 consumption of energy sources ranging from oil and coal wind and solar power was equal to 2.265 billion tons of oil, compared to 2.169 billion tons for the U.S.

According to the IEA statistics, China’s energy consumption has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 1.107 billion tons in 2000 – fueled by its burgeoning population and rapidly growing manufacturing-based economy.

Energy consumption is a touchy topic for China, which is sensitive to complaints it is pushing up prices on global markets and adding to pollution and emissions of climate-changing gases.

An official with the Chinese Cabinet’s National Energy Administration cast doubt on the IEA’s statistics, according to a report Tuesday by the official Xinhua News Agency.

“IEA’s data on China’s energy use is unreliable,” said Zhou Xian, adding that the agency “still lacked understanding about China’s relentless efforts to cut energy use and emissions, notably the country’s aggressive expansion of new energy development.”

The report cited data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics that said China’s energy consumption last year was equal to 2.132 billion tons of oil – less than the IEA figure.

The IEA’s head economist, Fatih Birol, told The Associated Press that the organization had used the same sources and methodology as always in compiling the 2009 statistics, which he said were in line with the trend for the past decade.

“The trend is undeniable that the Chinese energy consumption is growing very strongly – which is very legitimate, by the way, considering their population – and the energy from the OECD countries, the U.S., Europe and Japan, is stagnating. They are two major undeniable trends,” Birol said in a telephone interview. “There’s nothing specific from this year, it’s all the same methodologies we used before.”

He said that per capita, the United States still consumes five times more energy than China.

Birol also emphasized China’s status as the world’s leader in wind and solar power and said the country was also making “major efforts” in nuclear power.

China has invested heavily in hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and nuclear power plants in an attempt to cut rising reliance on imported oil and gas, which its leaders see as a national security risk.


3 thoughts on “China surpasses US as world’s top energy consumer

  1. i have no problem with this. if you do? i’d hafta ask you do you plan to have biological children? then you ARE a part of the problem–don’t hide behind false creations such as nation states.

    this is more appropriate, numerically–perhaps the americans suddenly started conserving? doubtful. but the same result would have happened.

    this is in no way ‘negative’ news. this is why the three gorges dam was a good thing for the planet, overall

  2. Yeah but that’s like Pinochet dying before being ‘found’ guilty. Who cares, as long as the truth is the truth? The Pope ‘denied’ Copernicus’ concept of the Earth orbiting our Sun–nothing changes if a fact is denied, and the denial is unimportant to history.

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