China, powered by years of rapid economic growth, is now the world’s biggest energy consumer, knocking the U.S. off a perch it held for more than a century, according to new data from the International Energy Agency.
The Paris-based agency, whose forecasts are generally regarded as bellwether indicators for the energy industry, said China devoured 2,252 million tons of oil equivalent last year, or about 4% more than the U.S., which burned through 2,170 million tons of oil equivalent. The oil-equivalent metric represents all forms of energy consumed, including crude oil, nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable sources such as hydropower.
The figures reflect, in part, how the global recession hit the U.S. more severely than China and hurt American industrial activity and energy use. Still, China’s total energy consumption has clocked annual double-digit growth rates for many years, driven by the country’s big industrial base. Highlighting how quickly its energy demand has increased, China’s total energy consumption was just half the size of the U.S. 10 years ago.