Trying to understand why American energy use will increase only 10%

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released their Annual Energy Outlook for the USA with projections of energy production and consumption through 2040.

In the report they forecast that American energy use will rise from its 2014 total of 97.7 quads to a total in 2040 of 106.3 quads. That’s a rise of 10%.

Assumptions are everything when you forecast the future and the EIA is making some assumptions that look almost heroic. They seem to assume that every factor used in estimating energy consumption can rise by more than 10% but that energy use has that hard limit–something I don’t understand.


I noted yesterday that they predict that the U.S. GDP will almost double, from its current $14.232 trillion to $26.67 trillion in 2040. I’ll add now that they predict that average personal disposable income is set to rise from $10,755 in 2014 to $19,724 in 2040.

Disposable income rises by 75% but energy consumption rises only by 10%?

The EIA also predicts that housing starts will rise from 1.31 million in 2014 to 1.66 million in 2040.

Housing starts increase by 25% but energy consumption increases by only 10%?

Housing starts rise because the  EIA predicts that population will rise from 317 million in 2014 to 380.5 million in 2040.

Population rises by 20%, but energy consumption rises by only 10%?

The EIA predicts annual sales of light duty vehicles to rise from 15.64 million in 2014 to 17.93 million in 2040.

Car sales rise by 15% by energy consumption rises by only 10%?

Well, maybe we’ll be driving less? No. The EIA says that American drivers put 2,623 billion miles on their cars in 2014, but that will rise to 3,434 billion miles in 2040.

Vechicle miles rise 30% but energy consumption rises only 10%?

You get the picture. I’ll be back to look at other sectors tomorrow, I hope.


The DOE Annual Energy Report for the USA is here!

Not as sexy as ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé‘, but it’s still like Christmas at present opening time! Hooray!

I will be doing a series of posts on this report, which you might view as sort of a warm-up for the release of the International Energy Outlook expected later this spring.

One of those posts will deal with some significant changes in methodology and assumptions, which I suspect will make it difficult to compare this report with earlier versions. They include a projected drastic drop in American population totals, drastic drops in estimated vehicle miles traveled, and much more.

The headline is that they expect American energy consumption to be even lower than their previous estimate for 2040, dropping by one quad from 107 to 106 quadrillion BTUs in 25 years. They show 2014 consumption (still a projection) as 96.64 quads.

US Energy Consumption through 2040

One inconsistency with that is their estimates for electricity-related losses climb from 26.16 quads to 29.43 quads. Unless all our infrastructure is expected to degrade and become a lot less efficient, this climb would imply that the U.S.will be generating about 10 more quads of electricity…

Probably the figure that will shock the most is their projection that use of motor gasoline will drop from 16.04 quads in 2014 to 12.09 quads by 2040. They really expect that to happen at the same time as the economy grows from $14.232 trillion to $26.670 trillion? While population grows from 317 million to 380.5 million people?

Well, okay… lots to work with, it seems!

Our Global Energy Future Part 2

For those of you just tuning in, this year I decided to take a look at what all this newly planned green energy would produce–if it was enough to meet demand.

 What I found was pretty sad. The five top fuel consuming (and CO2 emitting, for those keeping score) countries are China, the U.S., India, Russia and China will consume about 60% of the world’s energy in 2040 (and account for a similar percentage of emissions. The second five countries account for about 10%, so it really is the top 5 countries that matter.
And each of these five countries has been pursuing (and promoting their pursuit) of green energy sources to the rest of the world. To hear them all talk, green energy is going to take over the world.
However, their planned expansion programs for nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind,biofuels and natural gas are not going to do the job.
In fact, if everything that is on the planning boards gets built in those five countries, the percentages of renewable and nuclear energy used will climb from 17% today to 20% in 2040. And that’s if the DOE estimates of fuel consumption (819.6 quads projected for 2040) are correct. If my more pessimistic projections are more accurate our world will be burning about 965 quads by then. And if that energy isn’t coming from nuclear, hydroelectric, renewables or even oil or  natural gas… it will come from coal.
But I decided to do a bit more research and came up with more solid numbers regarding our plans to use green energy sources and nuclear power to reduce our usage of fossil fuels. I did some number crunching using the EIA’s Interactive Tables and converted their figures into quads. I also made assumptions about percentage of capacity that would be delivered in 2040, using 70% for hydroelectric power and 80% for nuclear. (The EIA, amazingly enough counts hydro as delivering 10% capacity and nuclear at 100%, while the IEA counts hydroelectric and all renewables (!) at 100%…)

This is what I came up with. (Click to embiggen.)

Our Global Energy Future pic


The world got 11.8% of its primary energy consumption via nuclear power and renewables in 2012, 64 of the 540 quads we consumed overall.

In 2040, that percentage is expected to climb to 18.7%, or 153.52 out of the 819 quads the EIA expects us to consume at that time. That would leave 666 quads to be delivered by fossil fuels. Number of the beast and all that…

If my more pessimistic figures are correct, those same 153.52 quads of renewable energy and nuclear power  will amount to 15.9% of the 965 quads my projections show we’ll be using. That would leave 812 quads to be delivered by fossil fuels.

Not a pretty picture.

Under The Dome

More than 100 million Chinese people watched this video before the censors took it offline.

As someone who lived and worked in China and who has reported on energy subjects for more than ten years, I can say that this video is honest, important and has the potential to change not just China, but all of the developing world.

If you’ve got the time go see it. I’m linking to the version on The Atlantic’s website because it has a good English translation and shows the whole documentary in one go.

Click here.

When Planning Fails

The Philippines consist of 7,107 islands, which of course makes planning difficult. Rapid development makes it more of a challenge. The Philippine economy grew by a robust 6.1% in 2014. Their population has grown by 45% since 1990, to its present level of about 100 million, but 8 million have been added since 2010.

The country is in the midst of an energy crisis, as the growing economy and population have created a demand for energy that outstrips supply. The country is currently experiencing blackouts and rotating brownouts that are causing disruption to people’s lives and the overall economy. The same has happened in many developing countries. The difference with the Philippines is that it has enough wealth to deal with it. But not without controversy.

The Philippines already have the most expensive electricity in Asia and prices are rising–something about supply and demand going on over there. This has led to charges of collusion, if not outright corruption, among and between energy suppliers.

They are now meeting unexpected high demand by the use of diesel generators, highly polluting and highly emissive of greenhouse gases.

So, what are they planning to do about this in the future? The EIA shows current capacity and planned construction for the next two years.

Philippine energy

In 2015 they plan to increase capacity by 1,600 megawatts, or 8%, followed by a further addition of 1,300 MW in 2016, reaching about 21,000 MW at end 2016.

More than half of their new capacity will be powered by coal–what readers here will recognize as what I have labeled the inevitable reaction to supply shortages. Whether coal ends up being better than diesel generators will depend on what type of power plants they build.

But between 2012 and 2013, energy consumption in the Philippines grew by 10%. If growth continues in the same vein, this additional construction will leave them in exactly the same position they are in now.

Although the Philippines have significant geothermal production and are working hard on building up solar power, they import half of their primary fuel supply.

Once again, we see that inadequate forecasting will leave the Philippines still importing expensive fuel, still facing power outages, still burning diesel fuel in generators to provide electricity–and still facing the same furor over prices, investment and the threat to growth that this situation produces.

Congressman Raul Grijalva’s Witch Hunt

Update: I now learn via Judith Curry’s blog that Pielke is not the only scientist being pursued. In addition to Pielke and Curry herself, David Legates, John Christy, Richard Lindzen, Robert Balling, Steven Hayward.

This is scary.
I am a registered Democrat most recently living in Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco. I am more than a Democrat–I am a liberal progressive who supported Barack Obama (and who thinks he has done a very good job as president).

Some years ago I wrote an open letter to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli regarding his investigation of Michael Mann. I told him it was a witch hunt and that absent prima facie evidence of wrongdoing he had no business going after Mann, who is someone I have criticized for getting on for a decade.

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is also a Democrat. Anything else we share is a mystery to me.

Witch Hunt

People get burned in modern times for being witches. McCarthyism is not such a distant memory. Persecuting scientists because you don’t like their science is not that old either–just ask about Lysenkoism, something that happened within living memory.

Grijalva is investigating 7 scientists including Roger Pielke Jr. to ascertain if they are receiving funding from sources Grijalva does not like. This is in the wake of the recent controversy over Willie Soon’s funding.

Apparently Grijalva has a particular dislike of scientists receiving funding from the Koch brothers. I assume physicist Richard Muller of BEST had best get his papers in order.

Pielke has already disclosed his funding to Congress. He receives no funding from fossil fuel interests. Even if he had received such funding, it is clear that he is being harassed because the data he presents to Congress is not welcome politically.

Pielke has researched the effects, incidence and impacts of large scale climate events. He has found consistently that, although he accepts the science of climate change, it is impossible to impute it as a cause for more or stronger weather disasters. And he is correct. Even the IPCC has said that extreme weather events would not start impacting our planet until 2030 in some cases and even later in others.

The fact that the data he presents to Congress is accurate seems not to matter. Pielke has blogged that he intends to drop all research related to climate issues.

Grijalva’s investigation is resulting in a defeat for science. It is a wicked act and a shame, not just for Democrats such as myself but for the country I love.

When Republican Cuccinelli did this I felt a little smug–my party would never stoop so low. Congressman Raul Grijalva is proving me wrong–Democrats can be as stupid, short-sighted and dirty as any other party.

This is a witch hunt. Representative Grijalva, call off your dogs. You make me ashamed of my political party.

Our Global Energy Future

The short version of this post is simple: We are in a bit of trouble.


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency projects that the world will consume 819 quads of energy in 2040.


A ‘quad’ is one quadrillion BTUs. A BTU is the amount of energy required to heat one pint of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It’s about the same amount of energy as in burning a wooden match. One quadrillion of them is about the same amount of energy as in a train full of coal, a very long train. Each car in the train would contain 100 tons of coal. The train would extend 3,789 miles.

The world consumed a projected total 558.7 quads in 2014, according to the EIA. 160 of those quads were fueled by coal. By 2040, again using the EIA estimates, that will grow to 219.5 quads from coal.

That’s a scary figure. Most of that coal will come from China (121.5 quads in 2040), India (22.4) and the U.S. (20.4), a total of 164.3 quads. That’s 75% of 2040 coal consumption from just 3 countries.

EIA Predictions

I have just finished analyzing EIA numbers for the 5 biggest consumers of energy, China, the U.S., Russia, India and Japan. During this analysis I looked at their plans to increase energy production from nuclear, hydropower, wind and solar.

These countries have published plans for future energy infrastructure. Taken at their word, they will build energy plants that are non-emissive (including nuclear). Using heroic assumptions (that everything that is planned will be built, something that has never happened), the 5 top energy consuming countries will get 97.35 quads from non-emissive sources out of a total of 404.8 quads they will be consuming. Which leaves three-quarters of their energy coming from fossil fuels. In the best case scenario, a lot of that will come from natural gas. In the worst case scenario, most of it comes from coal.

Those who are hoping that green energy takes over need to realize that this is what is planned for construction. The only deus ex machina available would be for unplanned (that is, residential) solar rooftops to grow at a very high rate. We know how many nuclear power plants and dams are going to be built. And make no mistake, these plans are ambitious–China’s nuclear power program and hydroelectric construction are making government planners and environmentalists very nervous. India is reacting to their energy issues by trying to make it easier–to dig coal out of Indian ground. It is difficult to imagine the USA finding the political will to increase either nuclear or hydropower construction.

All of the attention and announced new construction will have the effect of maintaining the status quo regarding green energy as a percentage of the total. Sadly, the total will grow rapidly.

The top 5 nations will produce 61% of all human fossil fuel emissions in 2040. The second 5 will only produce 10%. It is only the top 5 who can move the needle on the balance of their energy portfolios to make a difference.

At the present it is explicitly clear that they have no plans to do so.


As it happens, I believe the situation is even worse than I have described it. My calculations show that energy consumption will increase more rapidly than does the EIA. My projections show world energy consumption rising to 965 quads by 2040, as opposed to the EIA figure of 819.

I show my figures here. I hope someone will tell me I missed a decimal point or forgot one important factor. I really do.