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China is now the world’s largest oil importer – in one graph

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Apparently the government shutdown didn’t prevent the Energy Information Administration from releasing the latest Short-term Energy Outlook this week*. The big takeaway is that China has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest net importer of oil. The gap between oil consumption and domestic production is practically a rounding error: 6.24 million barrels per day (bpd) in the United States and 6.3 million bpd in China. However, the multi-year trend is clear. Here’s the chart:

A couple of observations on both sides of the Pacific. The American story is one of weaker demand coupled with huge production gains from tight oil plays in North Dakota, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Weaker demand can be attributed to many things, including a slow economy and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.

As for China, consumption is far outstripping domestic production (10.7 million bpd to 4.5 million bpd), which highlights both a growing middle class and the difficulty China is having in taking advantage of its own shale resources.

See here for a much more concise summary.

*Update: DOE hasn’t completely shut down yet because most of its appropriations are multi-year.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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