BEIJING (AP) -- China insisted Wednesday that it is only the world's second largest energy consumer, weeks after the International Energy Agency said it had passed the United States to become No. 1.
A joint statement by China's National Energy Administration and National Bureau of Statistics gave a higher estimate of China's energy consumption last year than Chinese officials earlier provided, but said it was still less than that of the United States.
China is sensitive to its status as the world's biggest polluter, and immediately disputed last month's announcement by the IEA. It had not been expected to move into the top spot so quickly, and the news reflected the country's hunger for power to fuel its booming growth.
The IEA last month said China's total 2009 consumption was equal to 2.265 billion tons of oil, compared with 2.169 billion tons used by the U.S.
In response to the IEA announcement, Chinese officials initially said the country's energy consumption last year was equal to 2.132 billion tons of oil -- or roughly 5 percent less than the IEA figure.
China's new statement instead said its consumption last year was equal to 2.146 billion tons.
"IEA's data on China's energy use is unreliable," official Zhou Xian said last month.
China had been expected to overtake the U.S. in energy consumption in 2015 at the earliest, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in April.
The United States still consumes more energy and oil per capita than China. But China's faster-than-expected shift has global consequences for markets and the environment, reflecting its transformation from a nation of subsistence farmers.
China's energy consumption has approximately doubled in a decade, from 1.107 billion tons in 2000.
According to IEA statistics, more than half of China's total energy in 2009 came from coal, a heavy polluter that accounts for less than a quarter of U.S. consumption.