Explosion in car ownership, oil consumption in China

Driving may have peaked in the United States but more Chinese own cars and are buying gas:

Over the past decade, the number of cars sold in China has jumped from 2 million a year to nearly 20 million. No surprise, then, that oil consumption soared from 250,000 barrels a day to 2.25 million barrels a day between 2003 and 2013, according to a new report from United States Energy Information Agency. As a result, since 2009, China has been forced to import half of its oil.

That hockey stick-like growth has, of course, exponentially worsened China’s catastrophic pollution and so the government’s latest 5-year plan calls for 500,000 electric and hybrid cars to be on the road by 2015, with 5 million by 2020. To hit those targets, China has invested billions of dollars to jump-start the country’s electric car industry. It’s also providing subsidies to get the motoring masses to go fossil-fuel free.

Buying a car isn’t just an isolated decision: it is linked to numerous areas in a society.

1. Gas consumption. This can help drive the oil industry, boost the import of gasoline, and affect the price.

2. Environmental effects. More cars means more smog.

3. An infrastructure of roads and other assorted services like gas stations and repair places.

4. Lifestyles that can be designed around the car. This includes more sprawl, fast food, and big box stores.

5. Perhaps a growing cultural emphasis on the independence and status related to owning a car.

All of this is quite a change.

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