Preliminary data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that China has become the largest energy consumer in theworld, having overtaken the United States in the top spot. An IEA chartshows China using roughly 2.25 billion tons of oil last year, while theUnited States used roughly 2.2 billion tons of oil in 2009. China roseto its top ranking faster than expected because the country was muchless affected by the global financial crisis than the United States.
The IEA notes that China’s energy use would be even higher today hadthe government not made significant progress in reducing the energyintensity of the nation’s economy, that is, the amount of energy usedper unit of output. China has also become one of the world’s leaders inrenewable energy, particularly wind and solar energy, and is planning amajor 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 indemand, China’s energy consumption on a per capita basis is still onlyapproximately one-third of the average among industrialized countries.Considering this low per-capita energy consumption and China’s rank asthe most populous nation on the planet, the IEA concludes, “prospectsfor further growth are very strong.”