Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2017
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant and former public servant of 27 years; prior to that he was a diplomat for 10 years.
This week, I posted an article on the Friends of Science blog describing the highlights of the recent United States Energy Information Administration report on the International Energy Outlook for 2017 (IEO 2017). The report offers the authoritative agency’s analysis of the trends in world energy supply and demand to 2040, with some indicative figures for 2050. The report also estimates the results of these global energy trends for carbon dioxide emissions.
In the article, I noted a few projections that do not accord with the vision of those who believe that humans are causing catastrophic global warming and that massive, costly actions must be taken by all countries to rapidly transform their energy economies. Specifically, the IEO 2017 projected that:
- From 2015 to 2040, use of all fuels except coal will rise.
- Fossil fuels will likely account for 77% of global energy use in 2040 and retain that share through 2050 at least.
- Coal use will remain near present levels until at least 2040.
- Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions would grow, not decline, throughout the projection period.
- Total carbon dioxide emissions will rise from 33.9 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2015 to 39.3 GT in 2040 and perhaps 42.8 Gt in 2050, in contrast with the United Nations’ goal of a decline to 14 Gt.
By examining the detailed figures behind the IEO 2017, I discovered other interesting projections.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Region
The following table draws upon data in the IEO 2017 on emissions by major geographic region and country.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions (megatonnes) from Energy Combustion
These projections run counter to a number of goals held by those who want rapid transformation of the global energy system. If borne out, they would mean that:
- Neither the OECD nor the non-OECD countries will come close to attaining the emission reduction objectives contained in the COP21 agreement.
- The slight rise in OECD emissions over the projection period will be dwarfed by the massive emissions growth in the non-OECD area, and especially in Asia.
- By 2040, China’s emissions would be almost two and a half times those of the United States.
- India’s emissions will come close to those of OECD Europe by 2040 and surpass them by far in 2050.
- Canada will meet none of the emissions reduction goals set by the federal and provincial governments.
The Share of Renewables in Electricity Generation
One often hears the claim that renewable energy generation (from wind, solar, geothermal, and other sources, except hydroelectricity) will soon replace generation by other sources, including especially coal, natural gas and nuclear energy. The following table draws upon data in the IEO 2017 on world electricity generation.
World Electricity Generation by Region in 2040 (billion kWh)
|Region||Total Generation||Renewables Generation||Share(%)|
In other words, while the share of renewables in electricity generation will rise, it will probably have only a relatively minor role in the total generation system on a global level.
Transportation Energy Use
Hardly a day passes when the media does not publish another story about electric vehicles completely displacing the internal combustion engine in vehicles and all phases of transportation being electrified. The following table based on the IEO 2017, in contrast, presents a more analytical view.
World Transportation Energy Use (quadrillion Btu)
|Residual Fuel Oil|
|Liquefied Petroleum Gases|
The IEO 2017 projections offer very bad news for electric vehicle advocates.
- Hydrocarbons maintain over 95% of the transportation sector’s fuel needs out to at least 2050.
- In terms of energy content, the fastest growing sources of transportation energy will be natural gas and jet fuel.
- By 2040, electricity will capture 3 per cent of the transportation energy market and 4 per cent by 2050.
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