China now imports more oil than the United States, but there is an important caveat: the United States has one-third the population of China. That means the average American consumes nearly ten times as much oil as the average Chinese consumer. Here's what it looks like:
Of course, the subset of the Chinese population that is buying cars and consuming oil is smaller than in America, which makes a straight comparison between populations slightly misleading. However, if we imagine that every Chinese citizen adopted the Western oil diet, the picture gets crazy:
China would consume over 80 million barrels of oil per day, which is almost as much as the entire world consumes right now. The latest reports put world oil consumption at around 90 million barrels per day. China has an opportunity to leapfrog the oil-intense Western lifestyle. Will it?