Oil Crisis Looms As Car Population Jumps

<p>This in-depth look at the future of energy shows a coming crisis, with the oil shortage taking center stage due to India and China's thirst for cars. The U.S. sets a poor example for them to follow with low fuel taxes and long commutes.</p>
April 28, 2008, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The planet's population is expected to grow by 50 percent to nine billion by sometime in the middle of the century.

The number of cars and trucks is projected to double in 30 years- to more than two billion - as developing nations rapidly modernize.

Oil now accounts for just 19 percent of China's energy needs. But China's oil demand is expected to more than double by 2030 to over 16 million barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, as more people rise from poverty.

Just as in the United States, much of the increase in China's oil demand has come from that country's love affair with cars. The number of vehicles in China rose sevenfold between 1990 and 2006, to 37 million.

William Chandler, an energy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, estimates that if the Chinese were using energy like Americans, global energy use would double overnight and five more Saudi Arabias would be needed just to meet oil demand.

"What about the United States? The country has shown little willingness to address its energy needs in a rational way.

The United States is the only major industrialized nation to see its oil consumption surge since the oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. This can partly be explained by the fact that the United States has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world, the least fuel-efficient cars on the roads, the lowest energy taxes, and the longest daily commutes of any industrialized nation. The result: about a quarter of the world's oil goes to the United States every day, and of that, more than half goes to its cars and trucks."

Thanks to Mark Boshnack

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Published on Sunday, April 20, 2008 in The New York Times
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