China: The World’s Biggest Energy Consumer


China has overtaken the United States to become the world’s largest consumer of energy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The agency reported that in 2009 China consumed 2,252 million metric tons of oil equivalent in the form of crude oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable sources, surpassing the 2,170 million tons used by the United States. Just eight years ago, the U.S. consumed twice as much energy as China, but China’s booming economy has now made it not only the leading emitter of greenhouse gases — beginning in 2007 — but also the world’s leading energy consumer, the IEA says.

China’s oil imports grew 48 percent last year and have almost doubled since 2005. The U.S. remains the largest oil consumer — using 843 million tons in 2009 compared to China’s 405 million tons — but China burned 1,537 million tons of coal last year, triple the amount of coal used in the United States. Zhou Xi’an, head of China’s National Energy Administration, said the IEA’s data were “not very credible” and accused the agency of overstating China’s energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

photo: Hector Garcia

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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