Oil imports to the United States are expected to decline significantly over the coming years because of new efficiency standards for cars and trucks and an increase in domestic oil and natural gas production, said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the agency.

By 2020, China should overtake the European Union to become the world’s biggest importer of oil, according to the Paris-based agency, which acts as a policy adviser to governments.

“The U.S. would be less and less vulnerable to oil price shocks,” Mr. Birol said at a news conference in London. “But increasing reliance on oil imports elsewhere heightens concerns about the cost of imports and supply security.”

The average crude oil import price is expected to reach $120 a barrel in 2035 based on last year’s dollar value, the report titled World Energy Outlook 2011 predicted. Demand for oil should ease in the short term because of slower economic growth worldwide and supply should recover as Libyan production picks up again, the agency said, but the oil price will continue to rise in the long term because of growing demand from China and India.

Oil-importing nations will increasingly rely on a small number of producing nations, the agency said. Oil production is expected to grow mainly in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. More than 90 percent of growth will come from the Middle East and Africa, the agency said.

Greater dependence on oil imports in Asia, where demand is rising because more people are buying cars, could raise concerns about the reliability of oil supply. Much of world oil supplies are transported via vulnerable routes in the Gulf, the Malacca Straits (all the earthquakes happening my emphasis) and elsewhere, the energy agency said.

The agency said it was unclear whether production from the Middle East and North Africa would actually grow as expected because some nations, including Libya, might find it difficult to find the necessary investment in exploration and production.

“After the Arab Spring there might be different priorities,” Mr. Birol said. “If they were investing a third less, then 2015 oil prices may go up to $150 per barrel.”

Global oil demand is expected to rise to 99 million barrels a day in 2035 from 87 million barrels a day last year, mainly because of a growing transport sector in China and other faster-growing economies, the agency said.

The agency also urged governments to agree soon on legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions so that investment in clean-energy technologies can increase by 2017, making it possible to meet the goal of limiting the average rise in global temperatures to two degrees centigrade.

“We cannot afford to delay further action to tackle climate change,” the agency said in the report. “For every $1 of investment avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

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