The Moment

7|20|10: Shanghai

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The U.S. auto industry has shriveled, the stock market is anemic, and that World Cup match against Ghana was just depressing. But for more than a century, the U.S. has been at the top of the charts when it comes to consuming energy. Americans burned oil as if they could just find it on the beach (which, thanks to BP, you now probably can). No longer, however. According to a new analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), China became the world's biggest energy consumer in 2009. Not all is lost: thanks to Americans' wasteful ways (and wealth), the average American consumes five times as much energy as the average Chinese. But the news signals, as the IEA's Fatih Birol told the Wall Street Journal, that we've entered a "new age in the history of energy." And that age will be one of scarcity and environmental calamity unless governments push cleaner sources of energy. China is doing its part: it will spend $738 billion on clean energy over the next decade. And the U.S.? The Senate can't pass climate and energy legislation, no matter how watered down it gets. It seems the U.S. can still waste energy; it just can't lead.