China has overtaken the US as the world’s largest net importer of oil, in a generational shift that will shake up the geopolitics of natural resources.

US net oil imports dropped to 5.98m barrels a day in December, the lowest since February 1992, according to provisional figures from the US Energy Information Administration. In the same month, China’s net oil imports surged to 6.12m b/d, according to Chinese customs.
美国能源情报署(US Energy Information Administration)发布的初步数据显示,去年12月,美国石油净进口量跌至每天598万桶,是1992年2月以来的最低水平。而中国海关数据显示,中国同期石油净进口量猛增至每日612万桶。

The US has been the world’s largest net importer of oil since the mid-1970s, shaping Washington’s foreign policy towards energy-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela.

As China overtakes the US as the world’s leading net oil importer, Beijing is likely to face pressure to take a larger role in patrolling the world’s key shipping lanes. China has already taken a more assertive foreign oil policy in countries such as Sudan, Angola and Iraq, where state-owned Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars.

“The US is taking strides towards energy independence,” said Eric G Lee, a commodities analyst at Citigroup who first reported the shift.
花旗集团(Citigroup)大宗商品分析师、最早报告这一局面变化的埃里克•G•李(Eric G Lee)表示:“美国正在大步走向能源独立。”

Although December figures are often volatile due to end-of-the-year tax reasons, analysts and traders say the shift will continue, affecting global oil trade routers and the geopolitics of energy. The figures include crude and refined petroleum products such as diesel and kerosene.

This year the US Navy will reduce the number of aircraft carriers it operates in the the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Gulf to international oil markets.

US domestic oil production is booming on the back of the shale revolution, reducing the need for crude oil imports. In addition, US super-majors and refiners such as ExxonMobil and Phillips 66 are exporting record quantities of oil products to meet soaring demand for gasoline, diesel and kerosene in Latin America and Africa, lowering the country’s net oil imports.
在页岩革命的推动下,美国国内石油产量大幅增长,降低了原油进口的需要。同时,埃克森美孚(ExxonMobil)等美国超级石油巨头以及Phillips 66等炼油企业还在出口创纪录数量的成品油,以满足拉丁美洲与非洲对汽油、柴油和煤油的需求,进一步降低美国的石油净进口量。

US oil production surged last year by more than 800,000 b/d. The rise in domestic production has allowed the country to lessen its dependence on the Opec oil cartel. But the reduction has been uneven, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Middle East countries suffering relatively little from reduced US demand compared to African producers such as Angola and Nigeria.

The shift between China and the US comes as the International Energy Agency, the western countries’ oil watchdog, forecast that emerging countries would for the first time consume more oil than industrialized nations . The Paris-based IEA forecast that non-OECD countries will consume 44.9m b/d next quarter, compared with 44.7m b/d for the OECD nations.

The US remains the world’s largest net oil importer on an annual basis, but the margin over China has narrowed significantly over the last five years. The country’s net foreign purchases of crude and refined products dropped to a 20-year low of 7.14m b/d in 2012, while Chinese net oil imports averaged 5.72m b/d.