The global economic slowdown has claimed another victim: energy use.
Consumption of primary energy around the world last year grew by the smallest amount since 2001 while the U.S. saw its steepest drop in 27 years, according to a report released Wednesday by British oil giant BP.
Primary energy use grew just 1.4 percent globally in 2008 compared with the previous year, according to the companyâ€™s 2009 Statistical Review of World Energy report. U.S. energy use was down 2.8 percent in the same year.
Last year represented the end of one of the strongest periods of economic growth ever recorded. However, the economy had already started to slow, most likely not unrelated to the high price of energy, and the financial crisis in September then triggered a sharp recession - with critical implications for global energy consumption, Tony Hayward, BP Chief Executive said in a released statement.
Coal remained the world's fastest growing primary energy source for the sixth consecutive year, BP said.
Global oil consumption had the largest drop since 1982, declining 0.6 percent or 420,000 barrels per day. Natural gas consumption grew below the 10-year average at 2.5 percent and global coal consumption increased 3.1 percent, the lowest average growth rate since 2002.
Fast growing China had nearly three-quarters of the net global energy consumption growth and about 85 percent of coal's usage growth, raising concerns on its carbon emissions. China and the U.S. emit about 40 percent of the world's carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, a major greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.
As China emerges as a major energy consumer, it is receiving more international pressure to act to increase energy efficiency and curb emissions. In a visit to Beijing Tuesday, energy officials from the U.S. said the nation will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change, David Sandalow, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Energy, said in a speech.
China's actions are dramatically important because even if other nations somehow cut their emissions by 80 percent by 2050, if China continues its emissions growth at current rates, global temperatures are likely to rise a critical 2.7 degrees Celsius, according to Sandalow.
In the U.S. lawmakers passed a bill in May which aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The bill could be voted on by the a full session of Congress this year, ahead of an international meeting where world's governments are scheduled to meet in Copenhagen in December to set up a new commitment to fight global warming.