The U.S. is still by far the biggest energy consumer per capita, with the average American burning five times as much energy annually as the average Chinese citizen…”
- Fatih Birol, chief economist, International Energy Agency
There was a time a hundred years ago when being the biggest consumer of energy was considered good. No, not just good. The best. That’s when the United States surpassed England as the preeminent world economic power. Now China has done it to the USA. It was only a matter of time.
Energy for manufacturing and commerce has previously been more important than energy for simply living. China is now the leading manufacturing nation so it stands to reason it would use more energy. But with humans having more spare time on their hands, and manufacturing becoming more efficient, it follows that China- the most populous nation on the planet- would surpass everybody in energy use because they simply have more people. Computers, TVs, video games, iPhones, cars, lawn mowers, air conditioners and furnaces. All these things require using utility-provided energy. And in case you hadn’t noticed, gas is not 29 cents a gallon anymore.
However, statistics from the International Energy Agency show Americans use FIVE TIMES as much energy as the average Chinese citizen. With China’s hard times still visible in the rearview mirror, their people have not become as lazy, stupid, and wasteful as Americans are. Hey, it took us 100 years to get that way. Given China’s rapid growth, you’d think they’d catch up to us pretty soon. But as consumer products become more and more energy efficient, the chances of that happening look pretty dim- kind of like the lights of New York City on a hot, summer day.
Does this spell doom for the USA as the world’s leading country, as it did with Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century? Happily, no. Conservation has always been an evasive characteristic of a powerful nation. Wealth leads to waste. Luxury largesse. Now, because of dwindling resources and a poor economy, Americans are being forced to conserve as we did during World War 2. The Chinese will soon find out after exhausting their seemingly inexhaustible supplies of fossil fuels, they must make hard choices. Hopefully, they will learn from America’s bad example and choose conservation now to avert the energy crisis the USA is now in the grips of.
America’s energy crisis has resulted in more conservation. But it has not spurred competitive development of renewable energy resources as it has in China, Germany, Japan, Spain and virtually every other country. The good news is America is finally stopping the insane, profligate use of fossil fuels to power and pollute our country and planet. But the new champions of insane, profligate energy use- China, India, Brazil- have already put in place industry and residential incentives for renewable energy development and use anticipating the problem that has crippled America due to its continuing dependence on oil and coal, failure to plan for the ultimate exhaustion of those supplies, and the damage they ironically cause its economy and inhabitants.
That puts China and the rest even farther ahead of the USA. And that- as they say in Beijing- is the bad news.