NEW YORK - According to new data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), China consumes the most energy on earth, marking the first time in more than a century that the U.S. has failed to earn the top energy consumption designation, the Wall Street Journal reports
Last year, China consumed 2,252 million tons of oil equivalent, or roughly four percent more than the U.S., which burned 2,170 million tons of oil equivalent. The oil-equivalent metric includes all forms of energy consumed, such as crude oil, nuclear, coal, natural gas, and renewable sources.
The numbers reflect in some measure the relative impact of the global recession on the U.S. versus China, though China€™s total energy consumption has recorded double-digit growth rate for many years, a result of its massive industrial base. The change is significant, as China€™s total energy consumption was just half that of the U.S. a decade ago.
"The fact that China overtook the U.S. as the world's largest energy consumer symbolizes the start of a new age in the history of energy," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.
Despite the cumulative energy consumption advantage, China lags far behind the U.S. on per capita consumption, with the average American burning five times as much as energy as the average Chinese citizen. And the U.S. is the largest oil consumer, going through roughly 19 million barrels a day, compared to second-place China that consumes 9.2 million barrels a day.
Over the next 15 years, China is expected to build 1,000 gigawatts €" roughly the total amount of current electricity generation capacity in the U.S. €" of new power-generation capacity, a clear demonstration of its energy requirement.