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China and the Oil Endgame
Alex Steffen, 21 Jan 05

Ally Dave Roberts turns us on to this illuminating piece, China's risky scramble for oil:

"For China and India to reach just one-quarter of the level of US oil consumption, world output would have to rise by 44 percent. To get to half the US level, world production would need to nearly double.

"That's impossible. The world's oil reserves are finite. And the view is spreading that global oil output will soon peak.

"As a result, "the growing demand for oil is leading to a growing global conflict," warns Amos Nur, a geophysicist at Stanford University. The 1991 Gulf War, the 9/11 attack, and the current war in Iraq are skirmishes that could "pale in comparison with the looming potential conflict over oil with China."

China is one of the lynchpins. If we get a bright green China, much else is possible. If we don't, the prospects of every person on the planet get a whole lot dimmer.

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if I can throw a mildly self-promotional link into the stew, the nonprofit I work for just released a report on the subject of China and India's transportation boom that I did some research for (downloadable for a limited time from CWI's website, there's one kind of amazing graph (page 9) that compares the cars per capita in India and China (and other countries/regions) onto the US's historical level. by our historical standard, they're still in the early 1910s. &c, &c - any statistic about China's economic growth is bound to boggle you, really, but it's a novel and startling comparison.

the US should make energy cooperation and technology transfer to China (Canada's CWI is an excellent example of this happening on its own in the private sector) a key, high-profile part of our China policy, to help slow consumption as well as to help alleviate political tensions arising from competition over oil. the woodrow wilson center has a great, awkwardly-titled paper on this, 'crouching suspicions, hidden potential', at

Posted by: John Atkinson on 23 Jan 05

The math above is deeply flawed. The U.S. currently consumes ~25% of world oil production. For China to reach one quarter of U.S. consumption, that would be ~6% of world production. China currently consumes something, so the increase is less than 6%. It shouldn't be hard to see that what we're talking about is an increase of 6% at most - 44% is absurd.

I suspect what they're really referring to is per capita consumption, in which case the math may hold. But as a quick trip to either country will reveal, neither is going to reach one quarter of the U.S. per capita consumption anytime soon.

Check out Peter Huber's new book on energy resources. There's plenty of oil in the ground, and we find more of it each day. This is another non-problem being falsely exaggerated by those who choose to ignore inconvenient facts.

Posted by: Jim McKeon on 3 Feb 05



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