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China Drives its Way to No. 1 Oil Importer, Overtaking US: Professor Gallagher Comments

Kelly Sims Gallagher

China has edged out the US as the world's biggest oil importer.

The shift reaffirms China's ballooning growth and middle-class demand for cars and other amenities. Meanwhile, the US has slogged through five years of post-recession economic malaise. Americans are driving and buying less than before.

… China's reign as No. 1 importer began last month, according to data released earlier this week by the US Energy Information Administration. China used 6.30 million barrels per day more than it produced. Consumption in the US, meanwhile, outstripped production by 6.24 million barrels per day. That trend will continue through 2014, EIA projects.

It's likely to last even longer than that. China's economy – the world's second largest – has cooled in recent years, but it's showing signs of heating up again.

The country's gross domestic product is slated to rise 7.5 percent this year, according to China's deputy central bank governor, as quoted by state-owned news organization Xinhua. Passenger car sales in China rose 21 percent from a year ago in September, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, a semiofficial industry group. That's the biggest jump in eight months.

Dramatic increases in public transportation, fuel-economy standards, or gas prices could derail China's demand for oil, writes Kelly Sims Gallagher, associate professor of energy and environmental policy at [The Fletcher School,] Tufts University in Medford, Mass., in an e-mail.

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