Increasingly affluent and energy-hungry nation reflects the dramatic increase in the wattage of China's economy. The nation has overtaken the US as the world's biggest energy consumer According to the International Energy Agency, China's use of coal, oil, wind and other sources of power more than doubled in the past decade to reach the equivalent of 2.26bn tonnes of oil in 2009, creeping past the US total of 2.17bn. This is a major turning point. Energy use is closely related to carbon dioxide emissions, economic expansion and the global balance of power. The US has been the world's biggest energy user since records began. The Chinese government has challenged the figure, but the trend is unmistakable. While most developed nations suffered flat or negative economic � and energy � growth last year, China's GDP rose by 8.7%, putting it on course to soon overtake Japan as the world's second biggest economy, and its emissions � already the highest of any nation � increased 9%, while those of most industrialised nations fell. The bulk of China's energy demand comes from industry and infrastructure, but individual consumption is also rising, albeit from a low base. China has a great deal of ground to make up before it can provide its 1.3billion citizens with a lifestyle comparable to those in the US or Europe. But its people are plugging in more air conditioners, microwave ovens, TV sets and computers than ever before. They are also driving more vehicles. Last year, China surpassed the US as the country that sold the most new cars. Cityscapes are being transformed. Several Beijing skyscrapers have transformed themselves into 30- and 40-storey LED screens in the wake of the ancient capital's Olympic makeover into a super-modern urban metropolis. Last week, the state media said China would spend about 5 trillion yuan on clean energy in the next decade and reduce its dependency on coal from 70% to 63% by 2015. Domestic scientists also claimed a breakthrough in the development of a new generation of nuclear power plants. "They are doing everything they can to increase the supply of energy," said Paul French, co-author of a book about China's growing impact on oil shipping routes. "They are building nuclear plants, making photovoltaic panels like you can't imagine. Same for wind, hydro and biomass ... The trend is that they will continue to consume more energy."