In a shift that has major implications for industries around the world, China surpassed the U.S. in energy usage, according to an International Energy agency report. Part of the change is due to greater improvements in efficiency, but there is also the factor of population – per capita usage in China is still far lower than in the U.S., but with over four times the number of people, it adds up quickly.
The IEA’s chief economist said that the news represents “a new age in the history of energy.”
In 2009, China consumed the energy equivalent of 2.25 billion tons of oil from a variety of sources, including coal, oil, natural gas and hydro-electric power.
The U.S. still uses far more oil than China, but as the auto market grows, that is likely to change as well. Coal is still China’s most important energy source.
Although the news had little effect on energy and crude oil futures markets – West Texas International light, sweet crude futures fell by 51 cents to $76.03 per barrel – the shifting balance means that Chinese growth will be more important than ever to determining oil prices, usage and supply patterns.
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