China's energy grab

With the world's largest population, China is second only to the United States in energy consumption. China's consumption is expected to increase sharply as more of its population gains access to electricity and can afford appliances. Explore the graphics below to see China's swift growth in energy consumption, a slower growth in production, and which countries it leans on to cover the difference.

Energy consumption

China relies primarily on its large natural supply of coal. While China is the world's second-largest oil consumer, difficult geography and concentrated coastal populations around oil reserves have caused higher oil imports.

China owns the largest hydroelectric plant in the world and has several nuclear plants under construction, but its electric facilities produce only a small portion of its total energy usage.

China's energy consumption

quadrillion BTUs*

Coal
Oil
Electricity
Gas

Greatest total consumption

quadrillion BTUs — 2008

100.6

85.1

30.4

21.9

14.4

Per capita energy consumption

million BTUs — 2008

330.4

64.6

216.2

171.8

174.3

*One quadrillion is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000 (10 to the 15th power). In 2005, an average U.S. single-family home consumed 108 million BTUs, or 0.000000108 quadrillion BTUs, in heat, air conditioning and other utilities.

China's power surge

Though China's population has grown slowly, its per-capita consumption has more than tripled in recent years and its growth is projected to continue. Conversely, the United States's rate of per-capita energy consumption has fluctuated little.

Per capita consumption since 1980

Roll over bars for yearly consumption data.

China

U.S.

Production

China traditionally relies on coal for the bulk of its power generation. It is the world's third-largest coal producer, behind Russia and the United States.

China's most productive oil field is thought to be 90 percent depleted. Companies engaged in exploration and production have focused on the Tarim Basin, located in a rugged, sparsely populated area of China, as a potential replacement. Estimates in 2009 suggested the basin was only 12 percent explored.

China's energy production

Coal
Oil
Electricity
Gas

Largest energy suppliers

Select an energy type to see which countries China relies on most for energy resources, ordered by region.

  • Oil
  • Coal
  • Gas
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Oman
  • Kuwait
  • Angola
  • Sudany
  • Libya
  • Brazil
  • Venezula
  • Ecuador
  • Russia
  • Khazakhstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Turkmenistan

Source: EIA International Energy Statistics, FACTS Global Energy, USGS, United Nations World Population Prospects. Graphic: Heather Billings and Sisi Wei, The Washington Post. Published Oct. 30, 2011.