Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2021

In the ongoing controversy between those who believe that humans are causing catastrophic climate change and those who are skeptical about this, one of the most hotly-debated topics concerns the trends in global energy supply, demand and emissions. Skeptics focus mostly on the historical record showing that fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) supply 84% of the world’s current energy needs and renewables (wind, solar and biomass) supply only 5%. The advocates of alarm focus heavily upon the potential of technologies and government policies (i.e., taxes, regulations, and subsidies) to alter future supply and demand for energy, and especially to increase the use of renewable energy. The debate over what may happen in future is necessarily full of speculation and conjecture, which makes the debate largely unresolvable.

There is a small but important middle ground that receives far too little attention. It concerns the projections by expert organizations of how energy market condition may change in the near future, the next one to two years during which most of the governing conditions are well-known. Even here there is room for error, and the factors are numerous. Notably, they include global economic trends, the effects of unusual conditions such as the current Coronavirus pandemic, and the various factors that influence the supply, demand and pricing of different energy supplies and services. This note will summarize some of the best information available in an effort to get closer to the facts.

Both the IEA and EIA project, however, that a significant recovery in demand for oil, natural gas and coal is already underway and seems likely to raise total demand back to levels that meet or exceed 2019 levels by the end of 2022. … Neither the trends in fossil fuel production and use or those in renewable energy production and use are consistent with the declared policy objectives of many governments to achieve “decarbonization” within 20 to 30 years. In fact, there is, as yet, no evidence that the world is on a track to extensive decarbonization.

Robert Lyman

About the Author

ROBERT LYMAN is an economist with 27 years’ experience as an analyst, policy advisor and manager in the Canadian federal government, primarily in the areas of energy, transportation, and environmental policy. He was also a diplomat for 10 years. Subsequently he has worked as a private consultant conducting policy research and analysis on energy and transportation issues as a principal for Entrans Policy Research Group. He is a frequent contributor of articles and reports for Friends of Science, a Calgary-based independent organization concerned about climate change-related issues. He resides in Ottawa, Canada. Full bio.