China is set to dislodge the United States as the world's top energy consumer soon after 2010, as scorching growth there and in India reshape the global energy order, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.
The IEA, energy adviser to the world's industrialized nations, said that global energy demand was likely to rise more than 50 percent between now and 2030, with China and India accounting for 45 percent of this increase.
Its annual World Energy Outlook said strong demand from rapidly-industrializing China and India had forced it to raise its previous global energy demand projection for 2030 by 4 percent. That could increase to 6 percent if growth rates are higher than assumed.
The two Asian neighbors, both with more than a billion people each, are easily the world's fastest growing major economies. China's GDP has grown at double-digit rates for some years, while India's growth is just shy of 10 percent.
"As they become richer, the citizens of China and India are using more energy to run their offices and factories, and buying more electrical appliances and cars," the IEA said, adding that energy use in both countries was set to more than double between 2005 and 2030.
The redrawn world energy map could create severe strains, the IEA said and its chief economist Fatih Birol put the responsibility on developed countries to find ways to ease oil demand growth or risk nasty surprises.
"We are experiencing high oil prices today and if actions are not taken in years to come, we can see a supply crunch which is not good news for anybody and it may end up with very high prices," Birol told Reuters in an interview.
Oil has surged to new record highs in recent weeks, and is poised to test the $100 a barrel mark.
The IEA said China was expected to overtake Japan to become the world's second biggest oil importer, after the United States, around 2010 and would import as much as all 27 European Union member states combined in 2030.
India is poised to overtake Japan to become the world's third-largest net oil importer, after the U.S. and China, in the first half of the 2020s.
The IEA said Chinese and Indian combined oil imports would surge to 19.1 million in 2030 from 5.4 million barrels a day in 2006 -- more than the combined imports of Japan and the United States today.
China's oil demand is expected to rise on average by 3.6 percent between 2006 and 2030, while Indian demand is forecast to rise even faster by 3.9 percent during the period. Global oil demand is projected to grow by 1.3 percent per year.
Coal told a similar story. The two countries together will account for 60 percent of total world coal demand by 2030, up from 45 percent in 2005, driven largely by demand for power generation.
Booming growth and energy consumption is expected to catapult the two Asian giants up the emissions league table.
The IEA said China would overtake the U.S. to become the world's biggest emitter in 2007, while India becomes the third-biggest emitter eight years after that.
It said China and India had a "legitimate aspiration" that needed to be accommodated and supported by the rest of the world to consume more energy, while ensuring that they do not repeat the mistakes of their more developed peers.
"To believe China and India are to blame is wrong, because these countries have the right to grow. In India today, more than 400 million people have no access to electricity," said the IEA's Birol.
"Our own IEA countries grew in the last 100 years, and they put a lot of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. So to blame these two countries would be completely unfair," said Birol, adding that the IEA was "very much on the side of India and China" in any blame game against them.
The IEA said all governments would need to engage in "vigorous, immediate and collective policy action" to move the world onto a more sustainable energy path.
"There has so far been more talk than action in most countries," the IEA said.