This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 11, 2010

IEA: China Overtakes the United States as World's Largest Energy User

Preliminary data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that China has become the largest energy consumer in the world, having overtaken the United States in the top spot. An IEA chart shows China using roughly 2.25 billion tons of oil last year, while the United States used roughly 2.2 billion tons of oil in 2009. China rose to its top ranking faster than expected because the country was much less affected by the global financial crisis than the United States. The IEA notes that China's energy use would be even higher today had the government not made significant progress in reducing the energy intensity of the nation's economy, that is, the amount of energy used per unit of output. China has also become one of the world's leaders in renewable energy, particularly wind and solar energy, and is planning a major expansion of its nuclear power industry.

The IEA notes that China has experienced "phenomenal" growth in energy demand in recent years, doubling its energy use since 2000. But despite this rapid growth in demand, China's energy consumption on a per capita basis is still only approximately one-third of the average among industrialized countries. Considering this low per-capita energy consumption and China's rank as the most populous nation on the planet, the IEA concludes, "prospects for further growth are very strong." The IEA will further explore these trends in its World Energy Outlook 2010, due to be published on November 3. See the IEA press release and the accompanying chart.