World’s new biggest energy hog

PARIS — China is disputing a report they have overtaken the United States as
the world’s largest energy consumer, calling the calculations “unreliable.”

According to the International
Energy Agency, China’s 2009 consumption of energy sources ranging from oil and
coal to wind and solar power was equal to 2.265 billion tons of oil, compared
to 2.169 billion tons used that year by the United States.

The shift is historic, coming years
ahead of forecasts. In climate change talks, China has long pointed fingers at
the energy consumption patterns of developed nations and is sure to feel
uncomfortable with the mantle of consuming more energy than any other nation.

China is also sensitive to
complaints about its status as the world’s biggest polluter and suggestions
that its demand is pushing up energy prices on global markets.

According to the Paris based
agency’s statistics, China’s energy consumption has more than doubled in less
than a decade, from 1.107 billion tons in 2000 – driven by its burgeoning
population and economic growth that hit 11.9 per cent in the first quarter of
this year.

Per capita, the United States still
consumes five times more energy than China, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol
said.

According to the IEA statistics, in
2009, more than half of China’s total energy came from coal, a heavy polluter
that accounts for less than a quarter of U.S. consumption. Oil – the No. 1
energy source in the U.S., accounting for nearly half the total – made up less
than a fifth of the Chinese energy total.

The Chinese Cabinet’s National
Energy Administration cast doubt on the IEA’s statistics.

“IEA’s data on China’s energy
use is unreliable,” said official Zhou Xian.

Birol, the IEA’s head economist, said
the organization had used the same sources and methodology it always has in
compiling the 2009 statistics, which he said were in line with the trend for
the past decade.

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