China Passes U.S. as World’s Top Energy Consumer
China consumed 2,252 million tons of ‘oil equivalent’ last year, which is about 4 percent more than the 2,170 million tons the U.S. consumed. Oil equivalent is the term used by the IEA to bring all forms of energy into a comparable form, including crude oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, wind and solar power.
Projections were for China not to overtake the U.S. for another 5 years, but the takeover occured faster than expected with the effects of the global recesssion causing the U.S. economy to decline at a time that the Chinese economy was continuing to expand at a double-digit pace. Energy consumption in the U.S. flatlined while China continued to consume more.
Energy consumption in the U.S. was double that of China’s just a decade ago.
The U.S. still remains the world’s largest energy consumer per capita, with the average American using 5 times more energy than the average Chinese citizen.
“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 by the Wall Street Journal.
China relies on coal for much of its electricity generation, which accounts for why China already passed the U.S. as the world’s largest polluter several years ago.
The U.S. still remains comfortably in the lead in terms of crude oil consumption, with a consumption rate of 19 million barrels of oil per day. China currently consumes only nine million barrels of oil per day, although their consumption rate continues to climb.
Over the next 15 years, China’s electricity demand is expected to increase by 1,000 GW – equivalent to the total U.S. electricity output today.