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Rising Oil Use in China Will Keep Prices High


China's fast growing economy will continue to need significantly greater oil imports, experts at an energy conference in Washington said Monday. This, they agreed, will continue to maintain upward pressure on world oil prices.

With its economy expanding by 8 to 10 percent annually, China's energy consumption is expected to increase by 150 percent by 2020. Economists participating in the forum sponsored by Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) say that while coal will remain China's principal energy component, demand for oil is rising rapidly. In recent years Chinese oil imports have been rising by as much as 30 percent annually. China has become, after the United States the world's second biggest oil consumer.

Yushi Mao, an energy economist in Beijing, says China's oil imports will continue to increase amid rising competition to secure oil supplies.

"China is getting more and more worried about the security of oil supply," said Yushi Mao. "I think this is not only China, but all oil importing countries are concerned about supply safety."

Mao said free market pricing is the indispensable and best way of allocating increasingly scarce oil supplies. He advocates a Chinese currency revaluation, saying it would boost Chinese oil imports and reduce the country's rapidly growing trade surplus.

Another Chinese economist, Xu Yihe, an energy analyst in Singapore, says with its growing appetite for imported oil, China competes with the United States for access to oil.

"Look at China [today]," said Xu Yihe. "Chinese oil companies also are everywhere in the world, from Sudan to Canada."

From U.S. opposition last year to a Chinese purchase of an American oil company, Chinese firms, he says, have learned that oil is a political commodity.

Participants said China is diversifying its sources of oil and is promoting pipelines to bring in more oil and gas. Given huge and increasing demand from fast-growing East and South Asia, oil prices are expected to continue to rise.