Read a few years back China was buying most of the world's cement due to their building boom. Now hard data, great article excellent graphs.
"A Pretty Stunning Graph of World Cement Production (and China is Certainly Using It)
Cement is mainly used to make concrete, and is sort of the "active ingredient" in concrete - it is combined with sand and gravel in roughly fixed proportions. So cement production can be considered a rough proxy for the total amount of construction going on in a country.
This post updates Stuart's post about this two years ago (and yes, it's still a graph that will blow you away!) with two more years of USGS cement data, 2006 and 2007. The growth in China, from 1 GT to 1.3 GT in two years is mindboggling, even India and Russia are interesting...and there's more to think about under the fold.
edited to add: As a couple of folks pointed out--I have interchanged "production" and "usage" in this post incorrectly--however, China's 2007 cement exports were only 33 million tons out of 1.3 billion tons produced. So, at least for China, production is a good proxy for demand/consumption. My apologies for the mistake.
Some things we learned from the comment thread from Stuart's post a couple of years ago:
Remember, in China, oil isn't used in cement production. In the "clinker" stage, it's all coal. In the blending stage it's electricity (which is generated 80% from coal in China).
And cement production in China is inefficient. There are hundreds of small plants, both wet and dry processes, and the local environmental impact is severe.
Making a pound of cement releases a pound of CO2. And a Gigaton or two?
This also isn't a new phenomenon. This link shows data back to 1999 that illustrated that China has been at this for quite a while, but perhaps not to this extent.
To conclude, here is the percent change of production bar graph from 2005 to 2008. Think about what all that means in terms of energy. Also note the numbers from India, Russia, and the US.