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Last July, the Wall Street Journal reported that China had overtaken the U.S. to become the world's largest energy consumer. According to the WSJ, data gleaned from the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) confirmed that China's energy consumption surpassed all other nations. The IEA's report showed that China had consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent in 2009 (a metric that's used to represent all forms of energy consumed, including crude oil, nuclear power, coal, natural gas and renewable sources. Think of it as mpge for a country). For the sake of comparison, the IEA claimed that the U.S. had burned through 2.170 billion tons of oil equivalent in 2009.

However, China immediately disputed the IEA's claim, but failed to offer sufficient data to prove that it was not the world's largest energy consumer. Now, there seems to be additional evidence suggesting that China leads way. According to data released by the General Administration of Customs of China Monday, China imported 239 million tons of oil in 2010. This is a 17.5 percent increase over its crude imports in 2009. Furthermore, China Business News indicates that the increase in imported oil reflects the nation's growing energy demand and reinforces the notion that China has overtaken the U.S. in the position of biggest energy consumer in the world.

[Source: People's Daily Online | Image: D'Arcy Norman – C.C. License 2.0]


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  • 26 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's the bottom line - we, 5% of the world's population, consums 25% of the world's energy.

      There's no one to blame for this, folks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There is nothing wrong with high levels of energy consumption, which translates to a high standard of living.
        The problem is with getting it from fossil fuels with huge costs in air pollution and global warming.
        Fortunately the uranium delivered by the rivers into the ocean supply enough uranium to provide over 100kw of power for everyone on the earth:
        http://metalsplace.com/news/articles/32845/will-we-run-out-of-uranium/

        We already know how to build more efficient reactors to burn the uranium and how to extract the uranium from the sea.
        The more efficient burn would mean that even with the cost of extracting the uranium from the sea being perhaps 5 times current prices it would still be an even smaller amount of power costs than the very small amount it costs at the moment, around $0.003kwh.

        Many of those who are most convinced of peak oil, rightly in my view, simply ignore Hubbert's other insight, that the way out is to use uranium and thorium instead, which push out limits to hundreds of millions of years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Edge:
        You have obviously chosen to respond without reading any of the linked information which I provided, which is rarely a sound basis for a critique.
        No-one is proposing to extract uranium from river flows, but from ocean currents.
        The mention of rivers is due to the fact that continental erosion would replenish the c. 4.5 billion tons of uranium in the oceans indefinitely, which would hardly be in imminent danger of running out anyway.
        The costs according to the Japanese experiments is around 5 times present uranium prices, IOW it would raise the cost of the uranium from around $0.003kwh to $0.015kwh, hardly disastrous.
        However we only use uranium on a once through cycle for around 1% of it's energy, so reprocessing and fast breeders would raise that to make the cost of the fuel perhaps $0.00015kwh, for lower than today.
        Reprocessing costs money, but the point stands that the running costs of fuel for uranium powered nuclear reactors will remain trivial based on present technology without assuming breakthroughs for as far into the future as we can see.
        • 4 Years Ago
        > Fortunately the uranium delivered by the rivers into the ocean supply enough uranium to provide over 100kw of power for everyone on the earth:

        You know how many rivers they are flowing into the ocean all over the world? Thousands! Try to capture even 1% of that would be huge undertaking, costing 10's of billions of dollars, and that assuming your extraction process was 100 percent efficient.

        I don't see that being cost effective at all, and the reason why we have uranium mines.

        It's pure uneconomical fantasy, just like the South Koreans trying to harvest Lithium from sea-water, which I believe was 5 times more expensive than the current market rate.

        While you're at it, you might as well mine gold from all the rivers of the world. Lots of gold there.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's just a sign that China is growing, and they are just getting started.

      You can debate all day, if this news is good or bad.

      It will be fascinating to see where China is 10 years from now.
      Steven W. Diffy
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would make a large wager on China using a good bit of that imported oil for stocking their shelves up. It is what I would do. Stocking oil would be a cushion when the oil crisis hits and would save some money as the cost climbs. It would also cause the price to climb even faster thereby throwing other economies into the toilet. Just a thought for you to ponder.
      • 4 Years Ago
      OK but we still use 3 times more energy per capita...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Also, China uses much of the imported crude for manufacturing the plastics used in consumer goods rather than fuel. As the world's number one maker and exporter of consumer electronic goods, China also is the number one manufacture of consumer plastics. Even though China has 1.2 billion people, China still consumes less oil as motor fuel and home heating fuel than USA.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "US productivity per capita is ten times that of China's" . . . that is such a misleading statistic. Yeah . . . there is a car accident and then there is a $6000 bill to repair a car, a $500 car insurance premium hike, a $200K settlement for an injury with 1/3 going to some lawyer, $5K to some chiropractor, $50K in medical bills, etc. Does that mean we just had some $261,500 in great economic activity?

        Whereas China will have paid some factory worker $5000 to produce 10,000 plastic widgets.

        If our "productivity" was really so awesome then we wouldn't have a massive trade deficit with China, would we?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ok, but you still use statistics out of context. US productivity per capita is ten times that of China's, making us 10X more efficient. Next time, try to come up with an actual analysis...What's the point, that the US should have less productivity or a lower GDP? LOL.
        • 4 Years Ago
        USA! USA! USA! ;-)
        • 4 Years Ago
        "US productivity per capita is ten times that of China's, making us 10X more efficient. "

        Hah, go on believing that. That inequality will be correcting itself pretty soon...

        The US produces nothing except agricultural products. The rest is consumption ... of Chinese production. This has been enabled because the US has the world's reserve currency and can get away with this easy lifestyle. It won't last, however. All that needs to happen is for China's leaders to flip the switch and restructure their economy so that Chinese consume what they produce, then the US will be left out int eh cold Up S*** Creek, with no production, no fossil fuels, and no money, but luckily they will still have agriculture. The Chinese government is waiting for the right time to flip the switch (by dumping their US debt holdings) because this will be an uncomfortable transition for the country, like pulling a loose baby tooth out.

        And China has got big problems too because it can't feed itself (all those factories destroyed its farmland), can't power itself, and has to import most of its raw materials.

        The whole mess has turned into a big headache for the future of the world. Thank mainstream economists for that.
        • 4 Years Ago
        We don't do any manufacturing here so i don't think our productivity ( using a computer ) is causing that increased energy usage.

        I believe most of this usage is off the clock. Even poor people have AC, Heat, large TV's, game consoles, big ol' houses, etc. Can't say the same about the Chinese.

        We use actually more like 4x-5x per capita.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Shouldn't EIA be giving the proof of what they claim - instead of you saying China "failed to offer sufficient data to prove that it was not the world's largest energy consumer".

      Let us see EIA's data first. The burden of proof is on them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @David "AFAIK the EIA uses publicly available data."

        No - they actually produce a lot of data. IIRC, they are the primary producers of oil production and consumption data world wide. For eg., how did they get the energy use data in China - that is not from Chinese government, right ?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I meant that the data they compile and it's basis are publicly available.
        • 4 Years Ago
        ?? AFAIK the EIA uses publicly available data.
        Sovereign Governments such as China use whatever they fancy though - of particular importance is that oil reserves are whatever Saudi etc say they are, and until recently were just taken at face value.
        If China is not a bigger energy user than the US though it soon will be.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Very true. Infact USA & EU have just exported a lot of emissions to China. Just include the embedded energy in all the stuff we import and then we will see who uses most energy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That should have gone as response to @Spec above.
      • 4 Years Ago
      > You have obviously chosen to respond without reading any of the linked information which I provided, which is rarely a sound basis for a critique.

      David I did read that article. It's just not very well written, as I'm sure you would agree, but yes I did miss that part about harvesting it from the oceans, as oppose to rivers, but that's not that big of distinction, as the same question exists, on whether it's cost effective or not.

      Right now, with reprocessing of nuclear waste back into fuel, current sources of uranium is sufficient for our needs for a long time to come.

      Anyway, thanks for your counter argument.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @Spec & David Martin

      Insightful, thought-provoking comments on this subject !!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sadly, much of that Chinese energy usage is actually OUR energy usage. Much of that energy used in China is used to create the products that we buy from them. Thus, every product we buy from China actually represents exported energy usage.

      Looking at it that way, with the massive trade deficit we run, it is amazing that they don't use much more energy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm not going to stand for this... Everyone, leave your lights on and the AC/heat on high. We can't lose this battle!!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I've been driving 78mph up and down the highway in 2nd gear with the windows down and the A/C, fog lights, turn signals, and handbrake all on! She cannae take much more, cap'n (as Scotty never said).
      • 4 Years Ago
      "2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent"
      For those of us who took high school physics (and remember it) can we get that in [tera?] joules? New rule, also give simplest equivalent metric units when throwing around strange industry-specific units. No? Want to think about it?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Okay, 1 tonne of oil equivalent = 42 GigaJoules.

        So, China used 94,584 PetaJoules in 2009.
        Divide that by 31,557,600 seconds in a year, and China was cumulatively sucking down an average of 2.997 TeraWatts.

        And the US power tap on average ran at a rate of 2.888 TeraWatts.

        Okay now I'm satisfied.
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