(Image: The US in blue and China in red. The bars show total national energy use, but check out the dotted lines. On a per-capita basis US use has dropped slightly and China's has risen in the past decade, but we still use more than three times the energy per capita. Credit: International Energy Agency.)
China actually disputes that it's the new leader, but it concedes that it's close.
The International Energy Agency puts China's consumption at an oil equivalent of 2.25 billion tons of oil for 2009, compared to the U.S. figure of 2.17 billion tons. China insists it's only at 2.13 billion tons and growing. (Okay, so they'll pass the U.S. this year.)
But let's be clear. China has many times the United States population, and its per capita use is not only dramatically lower than America's, but lower than that of most of the world's industrialized nations. It's also significantly lower than Hawai'i's per capital use, as we'll see later.
China has on the order of 1.3 billion people, while the U.S. has a little more than 300 million. A billion makes a difference. (Hawai'i is at 1.3 million)
What's scary is that China's economy is growing rapidly, and that the International Energy Agency figures that its growth could even have been higher:
“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,” the agency said.
On a per capita basis, China's residents use 1,484 kilograms of oil, while in the U.S. we use 7,766. That's right. We use more than five times as much per capita. These data come from the World Bank's World Development Indicators.
How are we doing in Hawai'i? Well, we live in one of the highest energy-use nations in the world, but Hawai'i ranks 49th among the states and the District of Columbia in per capita energy use.
The U.S. average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is 326 million Btu (British thermal units). The residents of the highest-consuming state, Wyoming, use 1 billion Btu, with Alaska running a close second at 945 million.
Hawai'i is down with 220 million, about two-thirds the national average.
Here is the Energy Information Administration page on Hawai'i energy use.
Where do we use all this energy. A lot of it is flying to and from the Mainland, and flying inter-island.
“Due in large part to heavy jet-fuel use by military installations and commercial airlines, the transportation sector is the leading energy-consuming sector, accounting for over one-half of the State's total energy consumption,” the EIA says.
How does that compare with China's use? Using the conversion rate of 41,800 Btu per kilogram to obtain the oil equivalent, our 220 million Btu works out to 5,263 kilograms of oil.
Hawai'i residents thus use 3.5 times the amount of energy used by China residents.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2010