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China last year became the world's largest user of power, surpassing the U.S. The title came largely thanks to gains in U.S. energy efficiency.  (Source: Science Blogs)

China is expected to pass Japan this year to become the world's top coal importer. Only three years ago it was a net exporter.  (Source: CleanTechnica)

Aside from GHG emissions, China's high emissions of Nox and sulfuric compounds has given rise to noxious smog clouds, which now frequently blanket China, depending on weather conditions.  (Source: Telegraph UK)
Nation of over 1.3 billion people thirsts for power as it grows larger and more industrialized

Back in June 2007 China earned the dubious distinction of surpassing the U.S. to become the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases.  Now approximately three years later, the highly populated country has become the world's largest consumer of energy.

The news that China may now be the world biggest energy customer comes based on analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA).  According to the IEA, China overtook the U.S. in energy consumption sometime last year.

Despite having over 1.3 billion people, versus about 307 million in the U.S., China's new title may be primarily driven by the inefficient way it uses energy.  While the U.S. has improved its energy efficiency by 2.5 percent per year from 2000 to 2010, China only improved 1.7 percent.

While the U.S. still trails Europe in energy efficiency, it is consuming much less power as time goes on.  States Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, "In the 2000, the US consumed twice as much energy as China, now China consumes more than the U.S. On the one hand, the U.S. has come to a certain saturation of energy use, but there have also been lots of efforts, especially since 2005, to use energy more efficiently."

As Birol indicates, the Chinese victory came as somewhat of a surprise, as it was widely expected to take a couple more years for the Chinese to surpass the U.S. in energy consumption.  But the the numbers conclusively show that last year China used 4 percent more power than the U.S. -- 2,252 million tons of oil equivalent of energy from sources including coal, oil, nuclear power, natural gas and hydropower.

The IEA states that China, as the world's top dog in energy consumption, will be able to dictate international energy policy to an extent.  States Birol, "There will be a big multiplier effect."

The U.S. in recent years has been concerned with China's energy hunger.  Disdainful of China's proposed "voluntary" emissions targets, the U.S. has also shown concern about China's aggressive pursuit of Kazakhstan oil.

Three years ago China was a net exporter of coal.  This year it is expected to import 105-115 million tonnes of coal, to surpass Japan as the world's largest coal importer.  China is also now Saudi Arabia's largest oil customer -- a position held for decades by the U.S.  Money speaks and that position will likely have a profound effect on international business and relations in the Middle East.

Nobuo Tanaka, the IEA's secretary-general, has been trying to convince China to join the IEA since March.  The organization, which represents the largest energy consumers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) helps push for alternative energy and greater energy efficiency.

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RE: oh good
By Solandri on 7/21/2010 2:56:19 PM , Rating: 3
Listed by energy intensity (amount of energy consumed per unit of productivity), the U.S. is in the middle of the pack. Certainly the U.S. has room for improvement. But if you want to criticize countries for "wasteful" energy use like a Hummer, you should be starting with the countries which top this following list, not the U.S.:

RE: oh good
By BZDTemp on 7/21/2010 3:17:00 PM , Rating: 2
Well since the subject of the news post is China and the US then exactly why should I comment on other countries than those two.

However since you're making an issue out of the whole energy intensity thing then maybe we need to consider what lies behind those figures. The thing is GDP is a financial measurement and it tells nothing on what is produced only the value of what is produced. So we are back to consumption vs. money which isn't really a fair yard stick unless you're gonna claim the life of a wealthy person is worth more than a poor person?

RE: oh good
By Solandri on 7/21/2010 3:47:02 PM , Rating: 3
That's a well-known paradox which comes up with energy efficiency. Increased energy efficiency seems to increase energy consumption, not decrease it.

Unfortunately, because of the paradox, decreasing consumption simply for the sake of decreasing consumption is synonymous with reverting society to a pre-industrial pre-technological state. Given a choice between that and increased efficiency leading to increased consumption, I choose the latter. We should be encouraging increased energy efficiency, not encouraging decreased energy consumption.

RE: oh good
By BZDTemp on 7/22/2010 8:55:06 AM , Rating: 2
If you increase the efficiency well then you can decrease consumption and especially when you have a nation accustomed to cheap energy there is much to be gained with simple means.

RE: oh good
By knutjb on 7/22/2010 2:30:03 PM , Rating: 2
Get idea except its terribly flawed. You are missing the growth component. I'm all for gains in efficiency if they are rational, that is they don't cost more to implement than they save.

There is only so much that can be saved through efficiency and with growth, well it keeps on growing.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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