China’s Growing Demand For Oil Pales In Comparison To These Countries

A few weeks back we highlighted the strong link between GDP growth and oil consumption by showing you how oil consumption per capita has risen in selected countries as per capita incomes rise (Read: The Strong Link Between GDP and Oil Consumption).

Specifically, we noted the potential for China’s oil consumption—already the second-largest oil consumer in the world—to catch up on a per capita basis with other Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea.

That’s where we think China’s oil consumption is headed, but this chart from Carnegie shows how strong oil consumption per capita growth has been over the past 50 years. Back in the days of Chairman Mao, China’s oil consumption per capita was roughly 0.2 barrels per year (b/y). When Deng Xiaoping took over in 1982, that figure had grown to roughly 0.6 b/y.

China's Oil Consumption Increases While the U.S. Declines 052511

Since then, there’s been no looking back. China’s oil consumption per capita has increased over 350 per cent since the early 1980s to an estimated 2.7 b/y in 2011. In fact, consumption per capita has risen nearly 100 per cent in just the past decade.

Oil consumption per capita in the U.S. currently ranks among the top industrialized nations in the world at 25 b/y. However, today’s consumption levels are approximately 20 per cent lower than they were in 1979.

China isn’t the only emerging country to show big increases in per capita consumption; in fact, the growth in consumption for several other countries far outpaces China. You can see from this next chart from Carnegie that consumption per capita in Malaysia has nearly quadrupled since the mid-1960s. Consumption in Thailand and Brazil has more than doubled to roughly 5.7 b/y and 4.8 b/y, respectively.

Meanwhile, many developed countries—especially those in Western Europe, have experienced substantial declines.

Rising Oil Consumption in the Emerging World 052511

Today’s per capita consumption in Sweden is roughly 12 b/y, down from 25 b/y in the mid-1970s. That’s one of the largest declines in the developed world over that time but isn’t the only one. France, Japan, Norway and U.K. all use less oil on a per capita basis than they did in the 1970s.

This trend is why we feel emerging countries, especially Asia, are the epicentre of oil demand growth for years to come.

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor.