Category Archives: Uncategorized

Changing Forecasts Is A Good Thing–Unless You Don’t Tell Anyone

Because my own forecasts see energy use climbing much higher than the agencies charged with making official predictions on the subject, you would think I’d be happy when one of those agencies revised their forecasts upward. That is, unless you know me… I’m not happy for two reasons. But first, here’s what happened:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration publishes a document called the International Energy Outlook every couple of years. In it they project future energy consumption, among many other things.

Their predictions have changed for 2030 global energy consumption:

So, on to the two reasons for my unhappiness. First, I don’t think they changed the forecasts by enough. My prediction is total global energy consumption will reach 925.3 quads, based entirely on accelerating consumption in the developing world.

crystal-ball

Secondly, I’m unhappy because the DOE isn’t telling anybody about it. The total of their changes–42 additional quads–is an amount of energy equal to the combined consumption of India and Japan last year.

It should be ringing alarm bells for politicians, planners and even those involved in the climate debate.

But the DOE EIA isn’t telling people. Those who looked at an older forecast and haven’t checked the newer one will be operating and making decisions based on out of date information.

That isn’t good. There will be a new version out in the spring of 2015. I hope they are more open about changes in their forecasts this time around.

The Energy Future For The 5 Largest Energy Consuming Nations

Ahh, no wonder I get so much traffic with headlines like that.

Currently the 5 largest energy consuming nations are China, the U.S., Russia, India and Japan.

energy image

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (DOE EIA), in 2014 the consumption of these countries was:

(Quadrillion BTUs, taken from the US DOE EIA International Energy Outlook for 2013)

  • China        124.9
  • USA           119.8
  • Russia        30.6
  • India           26.9
  • Japan          21.4
  • Total:     323.6

That’s 58% of the 558.7 quads the entire world is estimated to have consumed last year. The same top 5 countries accounted for 19,642 million metric tons of CO2, 59% of the 33,186 mmt’s the world emitted in 2014. (China accounted for almost 30% of global CO2 emissions last year–wow.)

The acronym soup that is the DOE EIA IEO projects energy consumption through 2040. Let’s look at what those countries are expected to do in 2030:

  • China        198.9
  • USA           102.3
  • Russia        38.0
  • India           42.6
  • Japan          23.0
  • Total:     404.8

That would amount to 55.5% of the 729.2 quads the entire world is estimated to consume in 2030. The same top 5 countries will account for 25,404 million metric tons of CO2, 61% of the 41,464 mmt’s the world is projected to emit in 2030. (China is expected to emit almost 34% of global CO2 emissions that year–wow again.)

Although I have written frequently on this blog that I believe these figures are severely underestimating the energy future, for now let’s let that go.

It is clear that any action we take to reduce fossil fuel consumption and/or CO2 emissions must focus on the five countries that are doing the most consuming and emitting.

Of those five, all have active programs to move towards green or greener fuels and to work on lowering emissions. India gets a lot of power from hydroelectricity, as do China and the U.S. The U.S., China and Russia are doing a lot with nuclear power–Japan was as well, before Fukushima. China and the U.S. are active in solar and wind and the U.S. is still producing a lot of ethanol.

But if temperatures start to rise rapidly or the extreme weather that alarmists are falsely claiming is already here actually shows up, their efforts are likely to prove insufficient.

Russian Energy Consumption–The Surprisingly Good Citizen

When people talk about Russia and energy, it’s usually about their exports of oil and gas and the political games they play with both. From expropriating resources from domestic companies to leveraging supplies, Russia is painted (with no little justification) as the bad guy in the Great Game.

But Russia is also the world’s 3rd largest energy consumer, with almost 6% of global energy used in this huge country. In 2012 Russia burnt about 33 quads, half that of the U.S. or China, but more than 4th place India, which burnt 32 quads and gets a lot more attention because of it.

Partly that’s because Russia’s population is declining, as is their industrial base. They really don’t do much in Russia anymore, besides fossil fuel extraction. So their energy consumption going forward is not anticipated to be a major factor in the global picture.

But really, the other reason is that so much of Russia’s fuel consumption is provided by either natural gas (56%), hydropower and nuclear energy. Only 77 of their power plants are powered by coal.

Russian energy_consumption

Russia exports huge quantities of oil, gas and coal (they are the world’s sixth largest exporter of coal)–but they’re relatively clean inside their borders.

Now if that doesn’t go against everything you’ve heard about Russia, tell me what would.

 

Climate Blog (and blogger) of the Year

I know this is mostly anti-climatic for most of you who are eagerly awaiting my award for Climate Commenter of the year, but herewith we present our award for Climate Blog of the Year. (Drumroll, please… no, wait a minnit…)

Readers will remember the winner of the first award was Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate, following his bravura performance following the release of the Climategate emails. He responded politely (and to a large extent accurately) to hundreds of comments on RC in the week after the release of the emails and earned a place in blogging history books just for that.

The second winner was Climate Audit’s Steve McIntyre, who in his tenure at CA has shown persistence, patience and consistency in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Paleoclimatologists may curse the day McIntyre developed and interest in their subject. However, paleoclimatology is immeasurably better because of it.

Our Blog (and blogger) of  2014 was similarly consistent and patient, enduring criticism from the opposite side of the policy fence, dealing with 109,000 comments from 750,000 visitors, posting almost daily, with almost all posts relevant to climate science and the policy issues that science entails.

This blog was one of the few I could access during my self-imposed exile in mainland China, and it was an oasis of sorts for me. I not only enjoyed it, I learned from it.

Congratulations, Judith Curry and Climate Etc.

curry_06b

Warming May Be Global. Fixing The Problem Isn’t

CO2 mixes well in the atmosphere and spreads across the world. Whatever it does–a lot, a little, something in between–it does without regard to borders.

However, the top 5 energy consumers consume half the energy produced. That’s China (21%), the U.S.A. (19.3%), Russia (5.9%), India (4.5%) and Japan (3%). Those 5 countries account for almost 51% of all energy consumed globally. Countries 6-10 consume a total of 11%.

world-coal-consumption-by-country-2011-2035

Focusing on coal is a lot easier. You don’t need to count to five. Three countries account for 75% of coal consumed in the world–China alone burns 53.4%, followed by the U.S.A. with 13% and India with 9.1%.

If CO2 emissions are a global problem, the rest of the globe should be talking sternly to 5 countries. If in addition we are concerned about pollution, the people in the hot seat come from only 3 countries–with an emphasis on China.

India’s Energy Consumption

India is the world’s 4th largest consumer of energy, behind China, the U.S. and Russia. But whereas China and the U.S. each consumed over 100 quads in 2012, India consumed 32 quads. That’s not very much energy for 1.25 billion people.

However, their energy consumption has doubled in the past 10 years and if that keeps up they will be at U.S./China levels by 2035. Or sooner… It’s important to note that while their energy consumption doubled between 2002 and 2012, their GDP tripled…

Much like China, India uses a lot of coal. 54% of their installed electricity base is coal-fueled and 67% of planned addition to generating capacity is also to be coal-fired.

INDIA-ECONOMY-MINING

But unlike China, India’s increasing reliance on coal is actually an improvement over current conditions. Over 800 million Indians burn dung or sticks for fuel when they can’t afford the kerosene that is their fuel of choice. Nonetheless, the 744.5 million tons of coal they burnt in 2012 was almost 10% of all coal burned that year worldwide.

These combustible renewables like dung and sticks (we’re not talking about sophisticated ethanol products, biofuels or cute little wood pellets–it’s mostly dung and it’s burned inside and it kills millions) amount to a quarter of India’s energy consumption.

Dung

 

In a 2011 census, 85% of rural households were wholly dependent on traditional biomass for cooking. Only 55% of rural households have access to electricity. There were 167.8 million rural households in India in 2011.

So what of the future for India? The DOE’s EIA projects their energy consumption to rise to 55 quads by 2040. However, the EIA projected their 2012 consumption to be 24.9 and it reached 32… so your actual mileage may vary.

Worse (much better for the Indians, just worse for folks like me worried about global energy consumption…sorry…), the GDP of India is expected to grow from $469 billion in 2000 to $12.4 trillion in 2040 according to the Goldman Sachs Road to 2050.

Gee. We have two countries with about that level of GDP right now… and both are consuming more than 100 quads per year… And if 70% of that comes from coal in the same way 70% of China’s energy comes from coal…

Is The DOE Boiling The Frog?

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration is raising its estimates of future energy consumption. But it isn’t announcing the rises to us.

boiling frog

I’ve been writing for some time that their estimates seem far too low. In 2011 the EIA projected global energy consumption would amount to 721 quads in 2030. At the time I was upset because my projections showed a total of about 921 quads.

Their 2013 International Energy Outlook now shows a projected energy consumption of 729.2 quads for 2030. As energy consumption is already surpassing their previous estimates, this is only natural.

But they don’t seem to be mentioning the increase in any of their publications.

Worse yet, in my opinion, is that they are not raising their projections by enough. Their 2011 estimate for 2012 was 519 quads. Their 2013 estimate for 2012 was 540.3 quads. So their adjusted projected rise of 8 quads for the period ending in 2030 has already been exceeded by a real rise of 21 quads in 2012.

Energy consumption is growing pretty much in line with my estimates, not theirs. If they continue to just nudge the figures up in every edition of the International Energy Outlook they will be doing the world a disservice. Planners and politicians worldwide use their product to make important decisions.

If they continue modest adjustments without notifying us, we will be like the frog in a pot of water warming up to the boiling point. If we need to speed up our adaptation and mitigation efforts it is their responsibility to inform us.

Models are not perfect and the world changes in strange ways. Correcting your estimates on a bi-annual basis is a very good thing. But the DOE should be telling people that energy growth is happening faster than they previously thought.