China Oil Imports Up Amid Economic, Auto Boom

World's No. 2 oil consumer after the United States said crude oil imports for December rose 11.4 percent from a year ago.

BEIJING (AP) β€” China's crude oil imports for December rose 11.4 percent from a year ago amid rapid economic growth and rising automobile ownership, according to government data reported Tuesday.
 
Total imports for the month reached 90 million barrels, the General Administration of Customs reported.
 
China ranks as the world's No. 2 oil consumer after the United States, and demand is expected to grow quickly in coming years, driven by strong economic growth and consumer demand as incomes rise.
 
December's imports brought the 2007 annual total to 1.1 billion barrels, up 12.3 percent from the 2006 total, according to customs agency data.
 
China supplied its fuel needs for decades from domestic fields but rising demand made the country a net importer in the late 1990s. Imports now account for almost 50 percent of consumption.
 
State-owned oil companies have invested billions of dollars to secure access to supplies in Central Asia, Africa and Latin America.
 
Beijing regards China's growing reliance on imported energy as a security threat and is trying to curb consumption while promoting alternative sources such as hydroelectric dams and nuclear power.
 
Government-set retail prices for gasoline and diesel were raised by almost 10 percent in November to curb demand.
 
Analysts say demand should rise in coming years as economic growth that has topped 10 percent for five straight years lifts incomes and more families buy private cars.
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