(WASHINGTON TIMES) China in October will become the world’s largest importer of crude oil, surpassing the U.S. for the first time as the Asian giant’s rising consumer class of drivers grows increasingly thirsty for fuel, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

China already is the largest importer of oil from the troubled Middle East, taking away a distinction that plagued the U.S. since the 1970s. Its ascendance as the world’s largest importer — even as U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil declines to negligible levels — could transform the geopolitics of the region and the world as the focus of global defense efforts for decades has been keeping open the vital oil transport lines leading from the Persian Gulf, analysts say.

China’s emergence as the world’s biggest oil importer has been building for years, but grew particularly rapidly this decade with the burgeoning of car sales there, which surged to over 19 million last year. China, with 1.3 billion consumers, since 2009 has been the world’s largest market for autos.

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