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China's Gas-Guzzlers

Car ownership in China is exploding and the Chinese aren't buying hybrids, they're buying big SUVs and forming Hummer clubs, Ariana Eunjung Cha writes. She tells us that "China alone accounts for about 40 percent of the world's recent increase in demand for oil, burning through twice as much now as it did a decade ago." And the price of gasoline there is subsidized.

Our Readers Who Comment have a number of different reactions. A few seem to be angry with the Chinese, but many comments point a finger at the mirror. There have been warnings about U.S. oil consumption for years but we seem to have started listening only now, with gasoline prices reaching $4 a gallon. Readers also discuss issues that have become part of every daily news summary: What is the role of speculators? Would federal legislation help? Why hasn't big oil drilled on a huge percentage of the leases it already owns (instead of pushing for offshore or Alaska drilling rights)?, etc.

Meanwhile, China, India and other nations have people who also want to have a nice ride and ask why they should be blamed for tough times at the U.S. gas pumps. As Cha writes, "...China bristles at criticism of its growing oil use, noting that per capita it will remain a small fraction of U.S. consumption for decades to come."

We'll start with book134, who wrote, "It is not China that is the problem in regard to the world's demand for oil... As is often the American inclination, we often blame others for our own self-induced problems because it is always easier to blame others than to change our own bad policies..."

BeijingStudent said, "Blaming us for the high price of oil is extremely unfair and injustice. Who really consumes most oil and gasoline in the world? Don't blame us . Look at your self. Stop to treat us like second class citizen."

hairguy01 lectured that "If America had used the last eight years to transition away from fossil fuels we would not be competing with the Chinese for the world's diminishing reserves."

jia123 shouted, "THE WHOLE CHINA IS USING LESS OIL THAN CALIFORNIA!"

And sargon20 asked, "Don't they KNOW that oil is ours?"

leep_1229 said that "If we weren't so stupid in destabilizing Iraq, a major oil producing nation, we wouldn't be in this kind of trouble right now blaming other countries for the rise of oil."

summicron1 wrote, "not sure why all the hostility to china -- we've long said the world would be a better place if everyone were like Americans. Now we can see if that is true..."

ih82blog, presumably with tongue in cheek, said, "Instead of making empty threats of bombing Iran the administration should focus on the obliteration of China's and India's automobile facilities. This will not only decrease oil demand... but could eventually bring a few jobs back to the US..."

longjohns wrote, "Pretty big problem. They are copying our terrible habits. We use twice as much OIL per capita as the europeans. They should learn from the Europeans in the organization of their cities."

peterp22 was one of a few who suggested, "Just one more reason why be should be drilling here and drilling now."

prosenjitdatta said "...the big car syndrome started from the US, and the rest of the world merely aped it. I do firmly believe that if the US kicked off a serious movement towards small, fuel efficient cars, the rest of the world would follow...."

MPatalinjug predicted that "Those well-off Chinese who now have taken a fancy to "hammas" and other gas-guzzler motor vehicles will very likely come to their senses when the price of oil at the pump in China hits the level of around $10 per gallon and up..."

k_vinni wrote, "...China's success is totally dependent on exporting to America and the West at the expense of American jobs and their success is a major reason we are now running out of oil and the world is over heating. It's a lose, lose, situation for America. America must embrace Green technology..."

We'll close with scottshot, who said, "As Chinese car dealers peddle their "fierce horse" Hummers, Dodge still offers its customers a monster truck labeled "Big Horn Edition." Yes, size matters to mental morons so fixated in both countries; and both countries seem to have no end of idiots who will keep this up until the wells run dry."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  July 28, 2008; 9:18 AM ET
Categories:  China , Gasoline , Oil  
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Comments

The reason oil is expensive is that the people (countries) who produce it jointly decided, about 1998, to short oil production and force prices up by creating a supply shortage. Thus they can sell less, and make more money.
The simple way to do this was to slow planned expansion of production, though OPEC did have some surprise production cutbacks several times in the last 10 years. Most OPEC nations today are producing flat out, it's new well's they build at snail's pace, and in the USA, they shorted refining capacity to keep our domestic supplies even extra costly and dear.
It's the free market. Were captive consumers.

Posted by: Blueskies | August 10, 2008 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Why are we not selling them the SUV's, Hummers and everything else they want then? I don't get, we buy ton's from them, why don't we sell them SUV's back, same with Venezuela?
eh?
Why are our SUV's factories shutting down? We should be pushing our auto sales in china with all the vigor we have. Gas is subsidised in China . WONDERFULL!!!
Let's persuade them to not change.
what we do, We change over to MDI's aircar with 106 mpg, or other alternatives, build nuclear power plants to replace our coal burning plants, build fischer tropsch synfuel plants to turn coal into diesel instead, build up biofuels and fuel cell technology, and only import oil from Canada and Mexico, our friends.
Win win, right? Oil exporting countries sell to china, who subsidises the costs, so it's people can buy SUV's from America, and also we sell to oil exporting countries because they also sell fuel at subsidised prices to its people.
And we import no oil at all.

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Posted by: chichilarola | July 29, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: chichilarola | July 29, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

They want what all Americans want: a house, a couple of cars, and to live well

Maybe the "American Dream" requires review.

Posted by: rcv | July 29, 2008 7:00 AM | Report abuse

China is no major power and never will be. Right now, they guzzle gas because the government subsidizes it. Later on, beginning this year, when this economy collapses, we will see less of this big face idiocy. Wait and see...

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Posted by: flower1800 | July 29, 2008 12:49 AM | Report abuse

It seems that Beijing has realized that cars are contributing to some extent to the pollution problem, since they are trying to halve the number of cars on the road leading up to the Olympics. Unfortunately they do not yet seem to care much about their ecosystem so probably will go back to normal imm'y after. This in spite of the fact that their air is unbreathable now. It would be wonderful if developing countries avoided our errors, but probably too much to ask.

Posted by: Christine | July 28, 2008 10:11 PM | Report abuse

The other side of the coin is that China and other developing nations like India have a chance to learn from our mistakes from the get go. China has already learned about adjusting consumption through eliminating subsidies.

Does China or India have an national interstate highways systems, well I doubt it. There are lessons to be learned about mass transporation and the independence of driving oneself from point a to b. In addition our national speed limit could be reduced to conserve energy. Elminating stops and rapid accelerations are other fuel conserving tips.

We are like the old dogs not being able to learn new tricks. Doing the same thing over and over again without producing new results is foolish. There are many corrective actions to be employed in our society and yet comfort maintains the status quo I guess. There is also fear of the future which paralyzes some I think, like a deer stuck with fear in headlights.

Posted by: Mark W. | July 28, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

It's ok for us to feed at the trough, but we get all defensive when other nations want the finer things? Pure hypocrites state-side.

Let's worry about ourselves and fix up our own infrastructure, manufacturing, and technological advances. Let China have Hummers....that's so last Century.

Posted by: Mike | July 28, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

People need to start understanding there's a huge difference between "People are buying SUVs in China" and "everyone's buying SUVs in China"

Pay a visit, see how many SUVs or pickup trucks you see in China, how many are driven by a single person? The fact that SUVs exist in China or more people are buying them hardly mean they are contributing anywhere near as much to china's oil consumption as the US

The whole of China consume 3/10 of that of the US per day, and half of oil consumptino in the US come from vehicles, compared to less than 10 in China. To complain about the existence of SUVs in China is extremly irresponsible, counterproductive, childish and pathetic to say the least.

Posted by: iewgnem | July 28, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Don't blame Chinese for wanting to drive gas guzzling cars. I don't care if they all drive Hummers. I mean, God bless them, it demonstrates how far the Chinese have come from being an extremely poor country to a major power. They want what all Americans want: a house, a couple of cars, and to live well. What's wrong with that? God bless them, I say. They're experiencing the freedom capitalism offers and at the same time purchases USA products.

Posted by: Hunky Santa | July 28, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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