After overtaking the U.S. as the world’s largest CO2 emitter last year, China has now overtaken them in energy use as well. According to the International Energy Agency, ” China’s rise to the top ranking was faster than expected as it was much less affected by the global financial crisis than the United States.”
Since 2000, China’s energy demand has doubled, yet on a per capita basis it is still only around one-third of the OECD average. Prospects for further growth are very strong considering the country’s low per-capita consumption level and the fact that China is the most populous nation on the planet, with more than 1.3 billion people.
China’s demand today would be even higher still if the government had not made such progress in reducing the energy intensity (the energy input per dollar of output) of its economy. It has also very quickly become one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy, particularly wind power and solar energy, and paved the way for a big expansion of nuclear power.
Sounds impressive doesn’t it? And it’s certainly a nice sentiment that as scary as those energy consumption numbers can be, it could’ve been even higher. But as Liam Denning at the Wall Street Journal says, “the numbers only tell half the story.” The other half is told quite clearly through the graph drawn up on their site.
While China’s energy use has gone from half that of the U.S.’s during 2000 to slightly more in less than ten years, numbers pointing to where it gets is energy show how dependent it is on things like export-oriented factories.
Coal accounts for 22% of U.S. energy consumption, but a full two-thirds of China’s, up from 57% in 2000… The Chinese services sector’s relative smallness shows up in the economy’s energy intensity which is, dollar for dollar of gross domestic product, still three times that of the U.S.
Little wonder Beijing has been reluctant to embrace efforts to curb carbon-dioxide emissions.