Editor’s note: Abacus Data has just released a poll about how Canadians ‘feel’ about oil, pipelines, climate and change. Friends of Science Society thinks that while feelings are important, facts and evidence should be the basis for sound public policy.  Just in time, Robert Lyman sent in the following commentary, unsolicited.  It does rather put the Abacus poll in proper perspective. No matter what you ‘feel’ – the fact is the world runs on fossil fuels, demand is growing everywhere, and fossil fuels are an integral part of the Canadian economy. (Note: graphics were switched out at 6:26pm Sept 09, 2017 for those related to the report BP cited )

Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2017

The media reports with enthusiasm the slightest increase in the use of wind and solar energy and the tiniest uptick in sales of electric vehicles, as though these demonstrated that a massive transformation of the world’s energy system is underway. It is refreshing, in contrast, to examine the actual facts, as provided by the best statistical sources available, concerning what has happened in energy use over the last few decades, and especially the period since 2006.

There are only a few well-recognized, authoritative sources of statistics on global energy supply and demand. These include the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), energy industry sources like British Petroleum and EXXON, and companies that offer statistical data for a fee like Enerdata. Even these sources do not publish completely up-to-date information, probably because many countries do not report in a timely way and there are several adjustments made to reflect new information. British Petroleum (BP) is the best source available that provides free and reasonably current information (including 2016) as well as multi-year trends. Most of the information that follows is from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy published in 2017.

Total Final Consumption by Fuel

Global energy consumption has doubled since 1971, rising from 4,661 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoes) in 1971 to 9,425 Mtoes in 2014. This growth of energy use is almost constant, with only three relative brief periods (1973-75, 1980-84, and 2007-09) corresponding to recessions when growth stalled. There is no sign that global energy consumption is declining. While, in many of the OECD countries, economic activity is becoming less energy intensive with the shift from industrial to service-based activity, on a global level there remains a clear positive linkage between increased economic growth and increased energy use.

The global fuel mix has changed considerably from 1971 to 2014, with the share of oil declining and the share of all other energy sources, especially electricity, increasing. In 2014, the shares were 38% oil, 18% electricity, 15% natural gas, 12% biofuels and waste, 11.4% coal, and 3.3 % other.

bp shares of global primary energy consumption lyman sept 9 2017

Oil Consumption

While its share of the global total has declined, oil remains the most important world energy source and use of it has increased over time. In 2006, the world consumed 3984 Mtoes, and that total rose to 4418 Mtoes by 2014.

The U.S. EIA produces up-to-date statistics on world oil consumption, including the changes in consumption by calendar quarter from year to year. These statistics show a quite remarkable growth in oil consumption over the last four years. Since 2013, the increases in oil consumption have averaged more that one million barrels per day per year, with the increases in 2015, 2016 and so far in 2017 averaging over 1.6 million barrels per day per year.  This is one of the most sustained bursts in global oil demand in the past half century. 

Natural Gas Demand

Natural gas has many advantages from both economic and air quality perspectives, and world natural gas resources and reserves are growing. Global gas consumption rose from 2573 Mtoes in 2006 to 3204 Mtoes in 2016, or 21%. Demand is increasing in every region except Europe.

bp nat gas consumption by region lyman sept 9 2017

Coal Consumption

Perhaps no energy source is more vilified by environmentalist groups than coal, but it remains the world’s most plentiful energy resource and one of its lowest cost sources. From 2006 to 2016 global coal consumption grew 12% from 3.3 billion tonnes of oil equivalent to 3.7 billion tonnes of oil equivalent, although this masks the fact that coal consumption actually declined from a peak of 3.9 billion tonnes of oil equivalent in 2014.

bp coal consumption by region lyman sept 9 2017

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is a proven, technically and commercially viable source of electricity generation that produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, global consumption of power from nuclear energy declined from 635 Mtoes in 2006 to 592 Mtoes in 2016. A 48% increase in use in the non-OECD countries more than made up for decreased use in the OECD countries.

Consumption of Hydroelectricity

The world has only limited sources of unexploited hydroelectricity, and most of these are located in less developed countries. Still, use of hydroelectricity grew from 688 MToes in 2006 to 910 Mtoes in 2016, with almost all of this occurring in the non-OECD countries.

Renewable Energy

Consumption of wind, solar and geothermal energy increased from 93 Mtoes in 2006 to 420 Mtoes in 2016, with increases occurring in all regions. Renewable energy now meets about 4.2% of global energy demand.

goreham wind solar energy mountain

Screenshot from Steve Goreham’s presentation: Climate Science and the Myths of Renewable Energy

powerplantsworld geoT euan mearns

Commentary on Geothermal by Euan Mearns

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

There are more authoritative sources of data on carbon dioxide emissions than BP, but for purposes of consistency, I will include the BP data here. The BP data cover only the emissions from consumption of oil, natural gas and coal. From 2006 to 2016, global carbon dioxide emissions grew from 29.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 33.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Emissions in the OCED countries declined by 6.7% while those in the non-OECD countries increased by 33%.

r lyman blog post cop21 co2 emissions oecd non oecd graph 4Conclusion

The most significant trends in the world’s uses of energy are the increasing share of final consumption held by electricity, the pervasive growth in natural gas consumption, the continuing link between energy use and economic activity, and the decline in nuclear energy use. The use of renewable energy is growing rapidly, but from a low base. Carbon dioxide emissions continue their inexorable growth upwards, driven by energy demand in the less developed countries.

That is not a story one is likely to read in the media.


Additional resources:

US EIA:  https://www.eia.gov/ 

Report: Geothermal for Alberta: A Case for Caution

Samuele Furfari  – “New Energy Bible” Energy Post

Professor and long-time European Commission official Samuele Furfari has condensed his 39 years of experience in the energy sector into a two-volume tome of more than 1,250 pages that goes right from the fundamentals of physics through Britain’s rule of the Middle East to modern day realities such as “Rosatom, the undisputed nuclear leader”, “Biofuels, a subsidised reality”, smart cities and the latest gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Energy Post spoke with the author about his new book.