1. Headline
  1. Headline
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/20/2010 9:57:13 AM ET 2010-07-20T13:57:13

China has overtaken the United States as the world's largest consumer of energy, according to data from Paris-based International Energy Agency, a landmark that has implications for oil prices and U.S. global energy policy.

  1. Stories from
    1. DWTS: Alfonso Ribeiro Has Strong Start on the 19th Season Premiere
    2. Spoiler Alert! First Interview with MasterChef's New Winner
    3. WATCH: Honey Bee the Blind Cat Is an Expert Hiker
    4. What Had the Nashville Cast Singing This Weekend?
    5. Lana Del Rey Cancels European Concerts Due to Illness

News reports citing data from the IEA said China consumed the equivalent of 2.25 billion tons of oil last year, slightly above U.S. consumption of 2.17 billion tons. The measure includes all types of energy: oil, nuclear energy, coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources.

IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told the The Wall Street Journal in an interview that the milestone marks "a new age in the history of energy."

China's government rejected the IEA's statistics.

In 2000, the United States, the world's largest economy, consumed twice as much energy as China, but China, which is the world's third-largest economy, now consumes more than the United States, the Financial Times report quoted Birol as saying.

China's rise to the top ranking was faster than had been expected in part because the United States has outpaced China in improving energy efficiency measures over the past decade, the paper said. During the period, the United States had improved efficiency in energy use by 2.5 percent annually while China only managed 1.7 percent annual improvement.

China's energy demand growth has largely braved the global financial crisis that hit the United States and Europe.

China's government rejected the IEA report. "IEA's data on China's energy use is unreliable," said Zhou Xian, an official with the Chinese Cabinet's National Energy Administration, quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

China's energy demand has surged amid rapid economic growth and the communist government is sensitive to complaints it is pushing up prices on global markets and adding to pollution and emissions of climate-changing gases.

Xinhua cited data from China's National Bureau of Statistics that said China's energy consumption last year was equal to 2.132 billion tons of oil, less than the figure cited by the Paris-based IEA.

According to Xinhua, Zhou said the IEA "still lacked understanding about China's relentless efforts to cut energy use and emissions, notably the country's aggressive expansion of new energy development."

China has invested heavily in hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and nuclear power plants in an attempt to cut rising reliance on imported oil and gas, which its leaders see as a national security risk.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: China surpasses U.S. as largest energy consumer

  1. Transcript of: China surpasses U.S. as largest energy consumer

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And on this same general topic of energy , there's been a shift between world powers . And while it happened quietly and without fanfare, this reverses generations of history, and it may tell us something about the direction of the world. China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest consumer of energy . The US still uses more oil, but China 's massive use of coal has now made it the biggest overall energy user on the planet.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Greg Barnette / AP

    'Tears in my heart': Spreading California wildfires destroy 100 homes

    9/16/2014 10:54:50 AM +00:00 2014-09-16T10:54:50
  1. Getty Images file

    'Blurred' reality? Robin Thicke admits he didn't actually write hit song

    9/16/2014 11:26:17 AM +00:00 2014-09-16T11:26:17
  1. Obama to announce military-led fight against Ebola

    President Barack Obama will announce a major military-led surge in U.S. aid to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa later Tuesday, with as many as 3,000 troops to help organize, train new health care workers and build treatment clinics.

    9/16/2014 10:56:26 AM +00:00 2014-09-16T10:56:26
  1. Jemal Countess / Getty Images

    NFL creates team of women to combat domestic violence

    9/15/2014 4:42:20 PM +00:00 2014-09-15T16:42:20