A Climate Survey! (And it’s not even mine!)

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I’m starting a new weblog

Because two blogs aren’t enough, obviously.

So, The Green New Deal was put forward without an explanation of how to implement it. I have started a weblog to try and show ways in which the principal elements of The Green New Deal could actually work. It is here: https://thegreennewwave.com/

Here is a sample: If all elements of the Green New Deal were successfully put in place, what would America look like?

Umm, Norway, maybe? They currently have an unemployment rate of 3.9%, similar to our current level in the U.S. They were the first country to provide universal health coverage with a single payer system, way back in 1902. College is basically free there, and more than a third of the population has a degree. 99% of their electricity comes from renewable resources. Energy efficiency of homes and buildings in Norway has improved by more than 30% since 2000.

If we adopt the Green New Deal, that’s pretty much what we would see in America.

So how does having those elements of the GND affect the lives of Norwegians?

Well, life expectancy is 84.3 years for women and 80.9 years for men, compared to 78.6 for adults in the U.S. Norway has the second highest score in the Happiness Index, 7.59. The US is 18th on the list, with a score of 6.89.

So now it’s a war? Climate change perspectives are… changing

Well, okay. Venkatesh Rao at the Atlantic says that the only chance we have at dealing with climate change is to treat it like a war. Here are two similarly well-thought out declarations in the same video:

Rao writes, “Precedents in public health, civil engineering, epidemiology, and public safety offer clearer examples of technocrat-led revolutions. But those transitions were far simpler, technologically, than a retooling of global energy infrastructure.

Properly qualified, there is only one successful precedent for the kind of technological mobilization we are contemplating: the mobilization of American industry during World War II.

The proposed climate change war—and no other term is suitable given the scale, complexity, and speed of the task—requires a level of trust in academic and energy-sector public institutions (including international ones) comparable to the trust placed in military institutions during times of war.
The significant political difference is that climate change offers up no conveniently terrifying dictator, against whom to rally the troops and general population. Without a sufficiently charismatic narrative, casualties will go largely unacknowledged, like the victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 (which caused about twice as many deaths as World War I, but is barely remembered today outside of public-health circles).”

To which I respond, if you are correct we are doomed. Not because of climate change–but because of your solution.

War has been declared on cancer, poverty, drugs and almost every other ill imaginable. I hate to break the news to Mr. Rao, but we lost them all.

War is what happens when reason fails. War is what happens when it’s root hog or die. War is always evidence of failure at the highest level of government.

Bringing that mindset to climate change will do just as much good as it has done to marijuana. None to speak of.

How will we know when we’ve won? When the climate no longer changes?

Why don’t we treat climate change as a long-term policy issue of the same magnitude as eradicating malaria or ending poverty worldwide? I’ll be that would work a lot better.

My advice to Mr. Rao–do as we did in Vietnam. Declare victory and go home. Worked for this guy:


My New Book Gets Its Own Website

Stairway Press has created a website for my recently published book “The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us.”

You can visit it here. It has a brief bio and an ordering form if you want to get the hard copy, which I believe will be out on October  7th. It is doing quite well on Kindle and I’m curious to see how many people will want the hard copy.

I am hoping that it will make my promotional efforts less burdensome on visitors to this site. I will still mention it occasionally, but there’s enough going on in the climate world that I prefer to focus on it.

But here’s the cover again–I like it.

Book Cover

Climate Change For The Rest Of US #2: Update and Excerpt

Well, the first 24 hours were excellent for my new book “The Lukewarmer’s Way.” Expectations were high, given that the book I wrote with Steve Mosher 5 years ago (Climategate: The CRUTape Letters) was released in the middle of a media feeding frenzy about Climategate.

We didn’t sell as many copies on our first day with the new book, but we are now a very respectable #8 in books about weather on Kindle and #17 on books about ecology there. Still waiting for our first review, though, which isn’t good.

Book Cover

Here’s a teaser from the book:

As I have said throughout this book, I believe global warming is occurring and that we need to both address the causes and the effects. I’m also aware that the process of species loss occurs in slow motion, as well. Which is why it’s clear that anthropogenic climate change to date cannot be held responsible for large scale loss of species, because global warming is so recent in its inception. Scientists date the beginning of human-caused climate change to around 1945.

Meanwhile, the abandonment of scientific perspective by some Alarmists in order to join the crusade to climate Jerusalem gives tacit permission to continue to those who are causing the real damage via habitat loss, pollution, lax procedures that allow invasive species to be introduced inappropriately, and over-hunting.

Anthropogenic contributions to climate change are recent. Anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity have been going on for millenia. I have no doubt that we can chart many species already feeling additional pressure because of climate change. That’s a given, because that’s a constant. The climate always changes and it always puts pressure on vulnerable species. Anthropogenic climate change will do the same.

Global warming will have a negative effect on some species, perhaps many. Species loss is currently a real problem. The two facts don’t have much to do with each other.

My thoughts about preserving the biodiversity remaining on this planet are fairly simple:

  1. Policy that encourages urbanization density. Right now, over half the people on this planet live in cities that cover 3% of the land surface. This should be considered a good beginning, especially as most projected population growth is expected to be absorbed by the cities. However, given that only 2% of the population is required for modern agriculture, there should be room for improvement. Policies that make 3rd world cities more liveable, safe and sanitary can decrease pressure on the land.
  2. It is time to renegotiate the law of the sea. Let’s appoint conservators for individual fish species that have czar-like abilities to establish fishing regulations that keep the health of the fish paramount. Establish a multinational compensation fund that helps countries wean themselves off of their over-supplied and over-mechanized fishing fleets and just put them out of business slowly.
  3. Focus some element of scientific research on creating best practices and standards for sustainable fish farms. Create sustainable certification standards and labeling. Focus more on rewarding winners than punishing losers–many bad fish farm practices are the result of poverty more than anything else.
  4. Introduce best of breed agricultural practices to insure that needed agricultural product comes from better practices, not more land coming under the plough. Start at the geographic margins and work inwards, as it is at the margins that expansion of farms into new territory happens. Refine the food distribution system to reduce wastage, introduce GMOs liberally, etc.

If you want to protect other species, you must start by removing the need to harm them by improving the lot of the species that is threatening them. That would be us.

This Lukewarmer believes greenhouse gases may help cause temperatures to be about 2 degrees C warmer than otherwise would be the case, which will cause damage in many regions around the world. As it’s an average, some regions will be affected more than others.

Although this will not be a civilization buster (especially for the U.S.), we will be spending money–either to prepare for and so minimize some of the effects beforehand, or to fix some of the damage afterwards. The first of these two is easier and cheaper than the second.

Whatever you call Sandy, whether hurricane or tropical storm, you can look at it as something we will see more of in a warmer world. I don’t think Sandy was caused or strengthened much by current warming, but I think it’s currently an outlier that may look more normal in the future.

How close to the shore should we build? What offshore structures should we erect to soften storms’ impacts? How much cheaper are seawalls than extensive infrastructure repair? How does our current insurance system interact with public wishes and natural disasters to guide rebuilding?

We also might visit other societies impacted by storms at sea, from Japan to the Netherlands, to see if we can benchmark best practice.

Climate Change for the Rest of Us–The Lukewarmer’s Way is Now Available on Kindle

The Kindle version of The Lukewarmer’s Way is now available on Kindle. If you are considering buying it, please remember that early sales are most helpful to an author, as signs of success push a book up the charts and make it visible to other prospective customers.

Book Cover

The book is divided into three sections:

  1. The Lukewarmer’s Way
  2. Why I am not an Alarmist
  3. Why I am not a Skeptic

“For myself and those other Lukewarmers I am in regular contact with, our position is not just the adoption of a mid-range between Alarmists and Skeptics. Examination of the data available from the same sources used by Alarmists and Skeptics have steered us to a different conclusion.

Here are some of the data points that have informed my view. I examine them in greater detail in the second and third sections of this book:

  1. Climate models have projected more warming than has occurred through 2014. Although they do a good job at charting the broad sweep of climate over the years, they do not get the fine level of detail needed to inform planning.
  2. A pause (or slowdown) in temperature rises has occurred just at the time that human emissions of CO2 have exploded. Almost one third of all human emissions have taken place since 1998, but warming has slowed dramatically during that same time frame. This is an argument against a high sensitivity of the atmosphere.
  3. Recent calculations of atmospheric sensitivity to increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are based on observations and provide values for sensitivity that are much lower than previous versions that were based on models.
  4. Sea level rise has increased from 2mm a year to 3mm a year in the past two decades. However, sea level rise shows no sign of accelerating beyond that and some indications are that it is returning to the 2mm annual increase of prior years.
  5. The physics-based approach to calculating climate change leaves calculations vulnerable to large biological or chemical responses to warming. Vegetative cover on earth has increased by 7% recently—how much additional CO2 will this draw out of the atmosphere? Physicist Freeman Dyson is frankly dismissive of models’ ability to capture the interaction between the various inputs into models.
  6. Temperatures estimated from before the modern record do not seem reliable, although part of the problem may be due to inappropriate statistical treatment of the data.
  7. Advocacy of an active policy response does not seem to rely on a confident view of science. Rather it suggests that Alarmists rely more on dismissing the opposition as ‘deniers’ and exaggerating the modest findings of climate science, precisely because the results of science to date are not alarming.

Here are reasons why I am not skeptical of human-caused climate change:

  1. The physics underlying the basics of climate science are utterly uncontroversial, over a century old and broadly agree with observations. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it does interact with infrared radiation at certain wavelengths and prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere.
  2. Temperatures clearly have risen since 1880 by as much as 0.8C.
  3. One of the key predictions of climate science, that the Arctic would warm much faster than the rest of the planet, has come true. Arctic temperatures have climbed by 2C.
  4. Sea level rise, almost all ‘steric’ (expansion of the water caused by heat) has increased from 2mm to 3mm per year.
  5. Human emissions have grown from 236 million metric tonnes of carbon in 1880 to 1,160 in 1945 to 9,167 in 2010.
  6. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have grown from 280 ppm in 1880 to 400 ppm in 2014.
  7. The rate of increase in CO2 concentrations is increasing. The volume of CO2 in the atmosphere grew by 0.75 ppm annually in the 1950s. In the last decade it has increased by 2.1 ppm per year.
  8. Growth in energy consumption is skyrocketing with the development of Asia and Africa. My projections show that we may use six times as much energy in 2075 as we did in 2010.
  9. Other impacts of human civilization, such as deforestation and other changes to land use, pollution and black soot landing on Arctic snows also contribute to warming.
  10. Published plans for construction of renewable energy infrastructure and nuclear power plants fall far short of what is needed to appreciably reduce emissions.
  11. The two principal drivers of emissions are population and GDP growth. Both are projected to rise considerably over the course of this century.”

Many thanks to the crew at Stairways Press for their work in bringing this book to life.

Stairway Press Will Publish ‘The Lukewarmer’s Way’ by Thomas Fuller

More details will follow.

The book will lean heavily on research done for posts here and at my companion blog The Lukewarmer’s Way.

It will be divided into three sections:

1. Why I am not an alarmist

2. Why I am not a skeptic

3. The Lukewarmer’s Way

Wish me luck. I’ll try not to bombard this space hyping the book but you can expect the occasional nudge to buy it. I’ll let readers know when it’s available in bookstores, on Amazon and Kindle, etc.

Sobering statistic for the day:


How Efficient Can We Get?

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration projects that our energy consumption will increase by 10% between now and 2040. Because it also projects robust growth in population, GDP, miles driven, home starts, size of new homes, etc., a 10% growth over 25 years seems low.

The justification for such a low increase is their projection that the efficiency of energy consumption will increase dramatically. Sadly, they have overestimated improvements in energy efficiency in 93% of their forecasts

For example, they expect miles per gallon for passenger cars to increase from the 2014 figure of 30.7 to 46.8 mpg by 2040. I don’t say that’s impossible–there are cars capable of getting that mileage today. But that level of improvement has never been achieved in our history.

Similarly, they expect a total increase of 56 billion square feet of commercial floorspace between now and 2040. But they expect total energy consumption to drop from 213 thousand BTUs per square feet to 191.8 thousand BTUs per square feet, so total energy consumption in the commercial sector only rises from 17.78 quads to 20.88 quads by 2040.

The same is true for every category they examine. At the end of the day, they expect energy intensity, as measured by thousand BTU per 2005 dollar in GDP to drop from 6.79 to 3.99 between now and 2040.

That’s an improvement of 2% per year. Is that possible?

Well, we’re certainly off to a good start. The EIA’s chart starts in 2011, when energy intensity was rated at 7.30–that’s well above 2% a year.

But if you look back a ways, it gets a bit dicier. About half the time, rates of decarbonization are below 2%, and half are above. But the half that are above 2% include the most recent economic unpleasantness, which the EIA specifically does not forecast for the next 25 years. They also include dramatic fuel switching to lower intensity natural gas.


The real problem for decarbonization as a strategy is that the easy stuff gets done first. Decarbonizing becomes progressively more difficult.

Globally, there is scope for dramatic improvements. Every time a villager in India quits burning dung and starts using even as dirty a fuel as coal, he contributes to decarbonization.

In fact, I would hazard the guess that historical improvements in decarbonization have been driven primarily by fuel substitution.

Making a dollar of U.S. GDP in 2009 took 60% less oil, 50% less energy, 63% less directly burned natural gas, and 20% less electricity than it did in 1975. But in an advanced economy such as the American one, we’ve already taken the easy steps. Much recent improvement is down to switching from coal to natural gas, which has proven to be a blessing–but unless coal is completely retired, has little in the way of further improvement to offer. As the DOE projects coal usage in the U.S. to increase (very slightly) between now and 2040, they don’t seem to think we’ll move much further down that road.

As with last year’s report, I also think they don’t pursue their own assumptions very rigorously. If climate change is going to make the U.S. Southwest significantly warmer, and if more Americans are going to move there (for a variety of reasons), then why don’t they show air conditioning rising by more than they do? If vehicle miles traveled are going to rise so dramatically, by almost one trillion miles, why is so little thought given to congestion and the waste energy it causes? They show no sign of projecting major construction of roads and freeways.

Do I think decarbonization at a 2% annual rate can be achieved between now and 2040? Yes. Do I think we are on the road to doing so? No.

I think we will make good progress in some areas–but not all. And I think we will define good progress as coming in short of the EIA projections.

Which is why  my projection for U.S. energy consumption in 2040 is 120 quads.

The DOE’s Ten Percent Solution

With apologies to Arthur Conan Doyle, of course.

The Department of Energy estimates that American energy usage will grow only 10% in the 25 years to 2040. As noted previously, this is despite a projected near doubling of GDP, a 20% increase in population, a 30% increase in vehicle miles traveled and much more.


They expect the number of households to increase from 115 million to 143 million, a 25% increase. They expect the square footage of new houses to climb from 1,686 sq. ft. to 1,858. But they expect residential energy consumption to climb by less than one quad, from 20.73 to 21.48 quads.

The DOE expects the industrial and agricultural sectors combine to grow from $6.616 trillion to $10.994 trillion by 2040, a 60% increase. But they expect energy consumption in the two sectors to grow from 26.81 quads to 33.53 quads, only 25%.

The explanation is simple, if not entirely credible. They expect energy intensity, as measured by thousand BTU per 2005 dollar in GDP to drop from 6.79 to 3.99 between now and 2040.

I hope to post soon on the plausibility of this.

Good News, Bad News

Let’s start with the bad news. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) has… pushed… the publication of their International Energy Outlook (IEO) to… October! What will I do? (Oh, yeah–get back to analyzing their report on U.S. energy…)

The good news is a bit more important. The DOE EIA has forecast global GDP through 2040. They say it will rise from 2014’s total GDP of $80 million to a whopping $200 million by 2040. I hope I get a piece of it.

If true, that would mean that the part of Asia that is not part of the OECD, which will see its GDP quadruple from $23 to $85 trillion, may well have enough wealth to spend on environmental safeguards. With a little left over for some toys…

Wealth in Asia

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.



America’s Energy Future

The U.S. consumed 95.9 quads of energy in 2013, or at least that’s one of several figures provided by the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency. This particular figure comes from their interactive table browser, which I’ll be using for the rest of this post.

That’s down from America’s recent peak consumption of 101 quads in 2007 and far below the leading energy consumer, China. We’re number two!

The DOE expects the US to reach 107 quads by 2040, again something I consider a serious underestimate. My personal projection has America at 120 quads in 2040. But we’ll play with the DOE numbers here.

Here is the U.S. energy portfolio balance today:


We see that about 17% comes from non-emissive sources (including nuclear), a total of 16 ‘green’ quads (depending on your level of purity required for non-emissive status).

How does that play out going forward to 2040?

The EIA expects American use of coal to rise about 10%, from 20 quads to 22 by 2040.

They also expect nuclear power to rise from about 7.7 quads in 2013 to about 9.2 quads in 2040.

The EIA expects power from hydroelectric and other renewable sources to rise even more, from 7.9 quads to 11.9 quads in 2040. Given the negative press dams get in this era, it is safe to assume the EIA thinks that increase will come from wind and solar–with perhaps a nod to ethanol.

So using the EIA’s numbers, about half of the projected increase by 2040 of 11 additional quads will be supplied by non-emissive energy–6 additional quads from nuclear, hydro and renewables.

But the percentages will barely move from their current levels. Despite a heated political discussion, executive orders to the EPA, a concerted drive to put solar power on millions of rooftops, commercial solar and wind power plants across the country, the U.S. will not be generating a significantly higher percentage of non-emissive energy than it does today. It rises slightly to 20%.

And if you prefer to use my higher totals of energy consumption (which are driven by population growth and increase in GDP), the picture looks worse. The same number of green quads will of course be a smaller percentage.


Japan’s Energy Future

In 2013 Japan consumed 21.4 quads. The EIA estimates that by 2040 their energy consumption will rise slightly, to 22.2 quads. My own projections show their energy consumption actually declining to 19.4 quads.

Although those totals are not very high, one sentence from the EIA’s analysis of Japan’s energy situation explains Japan’s importance quite clearly: “Japan is the world’s largest liquefied natural gas importer, second-largest coal importer, and third-largest net importer of crude oil and oil products.” Japan is almost completely dependent on imported fossil fuels, more so since Fukushima led them to shut down their nuclear power plants.

Japan energy consumption

Like Russia, Japan is undergoing a demographic decline and it’s not clear when that will stop. And, like Russia, Japan’s GDP is pretty much stalled, albeit at a much higher level than Russia.

So the concern for Japan is not about rising energy consumption. It’s a developed country with a stable economy and a declining population. The concern is whether they can transfer to a greener fuel portfolio.

After the Fukushima tragedy, Japan made strong moves in the direction of solar power. Their terrain is not strictly suited for wind–too mountainous, or at least hilly. The average solar insolation is good in Japan, so it is a logical move for them to make. And in fact, in 2013 Japan was the world’s 2nd largest market for solar power in 2013, adding a record 6.9 GW of capacity. 2014 installations are expected to be even larger, potentially up to 11.9 GW.

Sadly, the total of solar installed in Japan was only enough to generate 1.4% of their electricity in 2013.

The EIA expects Japan’s consumption of coal, oil and natural gas to remain about the same as it is now. The extra energy consumption they expect from Japan will be provided by hydroelectric power, rising from 1.7 to 2.3 quads, nuclear (the EIA clearly expects Japan to reactivate their fleet of nuclear power plants), which will add about 0.3 quads, a dramatic rise in the use of solar power, from 6 GW to 27 GW, which will still only produce less than 0.1 quads, with wind and geothermal contributing a fraction.

So although Japan will not be making matters worse in terms of fossil fuel consumption, they will not be doing much if anything to improve conditions. They will still be major consumers of coal, oil and natural gas.


Personal Politics and Climate Change

As recently as 2008, the Republican candidate for President (John McCain) supported Cap and Trade as a policy to ward off the effects of climate change. Newt Gingrich was on board with a host of green measures.


In the UK, all three major parties recently signed an agreement paper recomitting the country to an aggressive program to lower emissions. On the other hand, Australia and Canada have walked away from previous commitments and the upcoming COP in Paris promises to deliver as much as previous COPs–precious little, in other words.

How much does someone’s political beliefs affect their view on climate change? I suspect rather a lot. I think it’s probably because the major sources of information don’t limit themselves to climate change and if you don’t like what California Governor Jerry Brown (or his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger) say about economics, poverty and taxes you are not likely to appreciate their views on climate change.

I just wrote sort of a position paper on the companion blog to 3000 Quads, The Lukewarmer’s Way. In it I describe my personal journey to the Lukewarmer status I claim today.

Here I produce a quote from something I wrote on The Air Vent a couple of (wow–it was five years ago!)  years ago to describe my political stance. I do this both to promote what I believe is right and to give readers with firm political views a chance to get a better picture of what I believe. Because I have no doubt that what I believe affects what I write. No claims to omniscient objectivity here.

“Well. I am a progressive liberal because I believe there is a role for government that extends beyond the simple protections of civil liberty and national security. I think that the difference between an association of people who speak the same languages and share some of the same norms and a state is how the state reacts to the needs of its members, by offering support (Welfare! Food Stamps! The GI Bill, Social Security etc.). I believe a progressive liberal state offers more support than a conservative or libertarian state. If I ever printed a t-shirt with a slogan it would be ‘It is because I love my country that I want her to be just.’

I want the state to lead the push for conversion to green technology, not because I think it will be more efficient than the market, but because I don’t believe the market is capable of sending the correct signals about what consumers will want in the future. There is no way of indicating future preferences in this sector. There is no price on carbon. There is no futures market on air quality. Etc., don’t mean to bore.

I most emphatically do not believe that big government will do an efficient, laudable and forward-thinking job of this. They will get so many things wrong that we will all wonder why we let them even start. But it is only government that can get this going.

Because this is a new market (I know, only partially so), there are rents to seek and laws to evade and scams to run, and we will see them all. It is my hope that big government will be able to minimize this and allow the market to come to fruition more efficiently. But even if it doesn’t, it is IMO only a big government that can kickstart this and create a framework for the construction of an energy portfolio that will enable us to transition away from oil and coal within the timeframe that is appropriate.

Anthropogenic global warming may not be the overriding problem we are trying to solve. It may only be the poster child that motivated hordes of well-meaning greenies. OTOH, it may be a serious problem that requires serious attention and commitment of resources. I don’t think we’ll know for about 30 years. But even absent AGW as a primary motivating cause for action, pollution, depletion, energy independence and the pernicious effects of natural resource corruption on governments make it clear to me that having a diversified portfolio of energy resources, a distribution system that makes energy markets more efficient, and a physical plant that does not consume twice as much energy as needed for the tasks required, are eminently worth pursuing and justify asking national governments to assist with.

It’s not as if this is the first time we’ve done this–conversion from wood to coal and from coal to oil offer plenty of case studies in policy success and failure. Maybe it’s just a bit humbling to think we have to dust off books about Rockefeller and the British Navy’s conversion to oil to remember how to get it right.

I would submit that much of what will be remembered of the past century as improvements in the human condition will be the result of progressive liberal initiatives that were bitterly opposed by conservatives arguing much as they are here. What you will tend to remember are things like the U.N. What the rest of the world will remember are things like the Civil Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, the G.I. Bill and other measures that made a huge difference in the lives of poor Americans. Peter Drucker himself said that the GI Bill was a transformative event in the history of America.

Nobody discussing the failure of communism to spread through the industrial world has failed to note the effect of progressive measures in alleviating misery and providing hope to those who otherwise would have been candidates for support of Marxist theory. And indeed, those places with active communist movements are those without similar measures.

Like the conservative woman in a news clip who declared ‘Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare’ conservatives forget the origins of programs they now value. I’ve never met a conservative who wanted to repeal the GI Bill. All conservative fury about Social Security is about its funding, not its existence.

Progressive liberal policies were one of the best things about the 20th Century. And my personal belief is that a country that will not harness its wealth and energies in support of the poor and disadvantaged amongst its population will never deserve the title ‘great.’

There are many liberal politicians that can and should be criticized. There are liberal policies that are either wrong, misguided or have an improper emphasis. But listen carefully: This country is great–and one of the reasons is the success of progressive liberal policies.”

Russia’s Energy Future

This is the third in a series of posts charting the energy futures of the largest emitters of CO2. Posts on India and China are here and here respectively. Most numbers here are taken from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration where they chart energy consumption and CO2 emissions through 2040.

Russia is an outlier. It is currently the third largest emitter of CO2 and the third largest consumer of energy. Nobody ever mentions that because they’re all too busy looking at the amount of fuel Russia exports in the form of oil and natural gas.


The DOE estimates that Russia’s energy consumption will rise from 30 quads in 2013 to 38 quads in 2040 and that their CO2 emissions will rise from 1,614 million metric tons to 2,018 mmts over the same time frame.

However, my calculations show Russia declining steadily, due to a drop in p0pulation and GDP–I think things will get steadily tougher for Russia going forward and their energy consumption and CO2 emissions will be just about the same in 2040 as they are today.

But that’s still a lot of energy and CO2. I wrote recently that in terms of their current fuel portfolio, Russia looks like a solid citizen, using a lot of natural gas, nuclear and hydropower, and less coal than the other large emitters. Where, for example, China uses coal for 69% of its primary energy, Russia only uses 15%. In fact, if China and India could just match Russia’s fuel portfolio percentages, the world would heave a sigh of relief.

Could (and will) Russia do more in the way of addressing emissions?

They don’t seem to have plans for increasing the use of coal. The EIA projects Russia to get about the same energy from coal in 2040 as it does today, rising from 53 quads to 57 over the next 25 years.

The EIA thinks Russia will double the energy it gets from nuclear power, from 27 GW to 55 GW. (I don’t think Russia will be able to afford it, but then I’m a pessimist.)

The EIA also has high hopes for Russian hydroelectric power, rising from 50 GW today to 71 GW in 2040.

In other words, on paper Russia looks set to maintain the same percentages across its fuel portfolio between now and 2040.

I personally don’t think it’s going to work out that way. I think major economic troubles will result in increased use of coal for Russia and that lower productivity and a declining GDP will put some of their nuclear and hydroelectric construction plans on hold. But there are a lot of smart people at the EIA and they might be right.

So, my confidence in what I write about Russia’s energy future is lower than say, for China and India.

Next up–another outlier.

China’s Energy Future

This is the question on everyone’s mind when they talk about future emissions–which way will China go?

China consumes more energy (125 quads in 2014) and emits more CO2 (9,595 million metric tons) than any other country in the world. As a rapidly developing country, they are set to use a lot more energy and emit a lot more CO2. And that’s besides a very real (and very well publicized) commitment to be as green as they can be. Within limits…

You will see below that no matter how green China wants to sound, their future development will necessarily depend on coal. Their future exploitation of nuclear, hydro, wind and solar will deliver less than 20% of their total energy needs–and that’s if they actually live up to their ambitious plans for non-emissive energy. If the economy slips or the wrong guy goes to jail, their green plans can yield a lot less.

Here’s what currently powers China’s energy consumption:



The EIA has forecast that China’s energy consumption will increase to 219 quads by 2040. (My estimate is that they will consume 255 quads). More importantly, China has said they hope to reduce their reliance on coal–from its current 69%  to… (drumroll…) 65%. That’s 142 quads if you like the EIA’s projections, or 165 quads if you prefer my numbers. Sadly, if my number is closer to the truth China will burn more coal in 2040 than the entire world (including China) did in 2014.

China is building green infrastructure, no question about it. However, they are also building a lot of coal plants. Which will win out in the end?


China currently has 23 nuclear reactors in 8 plants across the country. They provided 1.25 quads of energy last year. They have 26 under construction. They expect nuclear energy to triple by 2020, to 3.75 quads, which would be 3% of the total energy China is supposed to consume by that time (the EIA’s figure, not mine.) They hope to bring the total up to 15 quads by 2040, which would be a bit over 10% of the EIA numbers, less than 10% of mine. The most ambitious nuclear energy program since France went for it big time will not eliminate China’s need for coal.


China has 235 GW of hydroelectric power installed throughout the country and it produced 7.5 quads last year, 6% of the total.

About 100 dams are planned or under construction on the Yangtse River alone. China has big plans for hydroelectric power. The EIA projects they will reach 409 GW capacity in hydro by 2040, which should yield roughly 14 quads.

Wind and Solar

China managed to get about 0.45 quads from wind and solar last year, from about 90,000 wind turbines producing 133 billion kw hours. The EIA expects that to grow dramatically, to 716 billion kw hours by 2040, producing 2.4 quads.

Solar provided about a tenth the power of wind last year, 0.04 quads. The EIA expects that to grow to 10 times its current level by 2040… so it will be less than half a quad, 0.36 quads to be precise.

In 2040, wind and solar together are projected to provide 2.76 quads.

Total Non-Emissive Energy in 2040

China will get roughly 32 quads from non-emissive sources in 2040, according to EIA projections. That would indicate that China will use primarily coal to generate either 187 or 223 quads in 2040, depending on whose numbers you like more, the EIA’s or mine.

Maybe that’s why China is building 363 coal power plants now.



India’s Energy Future Part 2

Yesterday we looked at what India has in the way of energy availability and how they use it currently.

We also looked at their published plans for future growth. If they build everything they say they are going to build, about 30 quads of India’s future annual energy consumption will be provided by nuclear (18), hydropower (7) and other renewables (5). Their total energy consumption last year was 32 quads.

So a world policy question becomes ‘how much energy will India consume by 2050? As I wrote yesterday, the US Department of Energy has predicted that India will consume 42.6 quads every year. If that is the case, then most of India’s energy will be clean and green. However, my prediction is that India will be consuming almost 100 quads annually by that time. If I’m correct then 70 of those 100 quads will be produced using fossil fuels, primarily coal.

It’s an interesting question with a very important answer. Guess we’ll see.

India’s Energy Future Through 2075

This is in the first of a series of posts looking at the 5 major consumers of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases. The purpose is to investigate if these countries have available options to them that will allow them to meet their energy needs and at the same time lessen the impact of their energy consumption on the environment.

This post is about India. India will become the world’s most populous country by 2028, according to the BBC. According to PWC, their  economy will grow from $3.375 trillion to $43.2 trillion by 2050. Although China gets a lot of attention regarding energy, pollution and emissions, India is the linchpin country for sustainable energy futures.

This analysis shows that India can potentially shift its fuel portfolio slightly in a ‘greener’ direction, but meeting the economic needs of its people will almost certainly mean continued use of large quantities of coal. The west should focus our assistance on making their coal plants cleaner and helping eliminate entirely the use of firewood and dung among the rural poor, either by rapid extension of the electricity grid or by installation of solar powered ‘micro-grids.’ Consideration should also be given to assisting India’s nuclear and hydro-electric programs.


India consumed 32 quads last year. It is projected by the DOE EPA to increase its consumption to 42.6 quads by 2040. My far more dramatic projection shows India’s energy consumption growing to almost 100 quads by that time. (My model is more focused on population growth and increasing GDP, while the EIA is more focused on supply constraints. If you like, I look at demand while the EIA looks at supply.)

This is how they got their energy in 2012, according to the EIA:

energy_consumption India



India has huge reserves of coal, but they are not good at getting it out of the ground, so they are the world’s third largest importer of coal, most of it coming from Indonesia. India also imports a lot of oil, 42% of its annual consumption, most of it from the Saudis. India started importing natural gas in 2004, mostly from Qatar.

Only 2% of India’s electricity comes from nuclear, and only (I say only because the Himalayas are right there…) 16% from hydroelectricity. 59% of India’s electricity comes from burning coal.

India’s Options

Although India is home to more of the world’s poor than any other country (about 400 million people living on less than $1.25 a day), it is developing quickly. Because so much of its energy infrastructure is crude at best, India actually has more options than some countries that have already sunk costs in plant that maybe they regret today.

India has a large amount of latent demand for energy. about 167 million rural households don’t have access to electricity. Because India has to dig itself out of a big hole, it needs to think more ambitiously about its supply.


India has 21 reactors today providing 1% of India’s energy. It is planning to spend $1 trillion over the course of the next 35 years, to 40 reactors by 2040 and 100 by 2050. That can be expressed technically as ‘a good beginning.’  Those 100 future reactors may provide about 2% of India’s energy needs by the time they are brought online, assuming they’re all built. Very recent agreements with the United States about insurance for private companies and loosening restrictions on fuel supplies may trigger an acceleration of nuclear.


India is the 7th largest producer of hydropower in the world, but it could do so much more. As noted above, it only produced 3.5% of the country’s energy last year and only 17% of the nation’s electricity. It currently has a capacity of 39,788 MW at 60% load. However, studies have identified about 100,000 MW of potential hydropower installations, and another 100,000 MW of potential pumped storage. India is not blind to the potential of hydro and has about 50 projects under construction right now.

Wind and Solar

India installed 2,084 MW in wind turbine capacity in 2014, bringing its total to 22,465 MW. It expects that to increase by 10% in 2015. It is an asterisk in the energy totals of the country and will probably remain so. Wind strength is irregular throughout the country, either too little or too much too often.

Almost all of India receives enough direct solar to make solar panels an effective solution. About the same amount of solar was added to total capacity last year as wind–2,600 MW. It is still an asterisk. However, because of solar’s potential to provide micro grid solutions to rural villages, it punches above its weight at the moment, bringing electricity to people who otherwise would not have it.

Natural Gas

India has proven reserves of 1.24 trillion cubic meters. It brought 40.3 billion cm out of the ground in 2012, which provided 7% of the country’s power. Offshore gas (and oil) exploration may lift their reserve totals dramatically.


As India is a major importer of oil and as oil is expensive in India even following recent price drops, oil accounts for only 22% of energy consumption. Another brake on use of oil is poverty–not many Indians have cars. This is expected to increase as India develops further.

India has about 5.7 billion barrels in proven reserves, about 4 years worth of current consumption. It is accelerating exploration of off shore sites, but is a major importer of oil.


India has proven reserves of coal amounting to 301 billion tons. 54% of their installed electricity base is coal-fueled and 67% of planned addition to generating capacity is also to be coal-fired. Coal amounted to 44% of all energy consumption last year. Current plans foresee little change in coal’s percentage, which is bad news for India as their total energy consumption increases.


Burning dung and firewood provides 22% of India’s energy. We’re not talking about sophisticated biofuels or wood pellet plants. It’s dung and firewood. Realistically speaking, if India set as its major goal the substitution of anything–coal, oil, anything–for this biomass, it would be a major victory for India’s energy future and the health of its population.

India’s Energy Future

Citigroup predicted in 2011 that India would become the world’s largest economy by 2050. As China’s population dips and America continues to grow at developed world rates, this may happen (although there’s quite a bit of optimism needed for such an assumption).

India is scrambling for energy, as both rich and poor want more than is available now. This has led to a schizophrenic pattern of importing oil and coal while investing in nuclear, wind and solar. The current administration under Modi sounds tech-friendly, but almost his first act as prime minister was to work towards increasing production of domestic coal.

Air pollution in India is bad–westerners don’t hear much about it because it’s worse in China. According to the NY Times, “Last month, the Yale Environmental Performance Index ranked India 174th out of 178 countries on air pollution. According to India’s Central Pollution Control Board, in 2010, particulate matter in the air of 180 Indian cities was six times higher than World Health Organization standards. More people die of asthma in India than anywhere else in the world. Indoor air pollution, mostly from cooking fires, and outdoor air pollution are the third and fifth leading causes of death in India.”

If they depend on coal for future growth in energy, the pollution will get much worse. If car ownership grows as expected, vehicle pollution will be a new and fairly dramatic source of pollution.

But India does have alternatives. Accelerated take-up of hydropower, nuclear and solar is actually feasible in this sunny country with a wealth of engineering talent and access to capital both on the private market and from multi-national institutions.

  • Expand the grid as rapidly as possible. Even if plants are coal-fired, they are cleaner than home use of coal, dung, firewood and kerosene.
  • Encourage use of electric scooters in areas with reliable electricity supply–there are electric three wheelers that can carry more people and groceries.
  • Increase investment in nuclear, solar and hydropower. Drop local content regulations, especially for solar
  • Orient all future wind projects to work in tandem with hydroelectric installations to provide pumped storage.
  • Ask for help in building clean coal plants, getting solar up and running and getting the most efficient turbines for hydro facilities

Enthusiastic adoption of each of these measures will not solve all of India’s problems. They will struggle. They will burn more coal than we in the west wish they would. But it will make the next 60 years ‘survivable’ in the sense that they may avoid large scale fatalities and morbidity due to conventional pollution. It will also help bend the curve of CO2 emissions down from BAU projections.

If India does move in the direction I have suggested, they will be able to hold their heads high and say that their development path is arguably more constructive, even more civilized, than that used by western countries a century or two ago.




Internal Variability In U.S. Energy Consumption

I’ve posted on this before. People spend a lot of time looking at the developing world and comparing their energy consumption with the OECD. I’m one of them. But it is enlightening to look at the differences within a country. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy publishes statistics at the state level.


Although Canada and Iceland consume prodigious amounts of energy per person, they don’t hold a candle to Wyoming, which has a per capita energy consumption of 949 million btus annually.It’s a darn good thing they don’t have many capitas. They are joined in their profligacy by Alaska (873 mbtus), Louisiana (849 mbtus) and North Dakota (788 mbtus). Hmm. I wonder what they all have in common? Canada, another energy producing region, consumes at the 426 mbtu level.

At the other end of the scale are Rhode Island (173 mbtus), New York (179 mbtus) and California (201 mbtus). What they have in common is they’re rich. Green, green Germany clocks in at about 250 mbtu and the goal should actually be the Dutch at about 161 mbtus.

If you’re concerned about lowering energy consumption, asking yourself how we go about making Wyoming more like Rhode Island, my personal answer is don’t bother. Wyoming is an energy producing region with a small population. So are the other high burners.

What we should be looking at is how to draw down the median. Right now the 25th state is Illinois at 300 mbtus, pretty close to the U.S. average. Our goal should be to make Illinois like New York, or number 28 state Delaware like Rhode Island. We should be looking at how Texas (461 mbtus) can be like California.

I’m one of those less concerned with how much energy is consumed than I am about what is burned to provide that fuel. California for me gets extra brownie points (named after their governor) because they are the number 2 state in renewable energy (after hydro-happy Washington). That darn Delaware not only uses a lot of energy per person, it is last in renewables. Washington produced 75,905 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2010, compared to Delaware’s 138. That’s right, three digits. Grow some mountains! Cry me a river!

We’ll give Illinois a bit of a break because it leads the country in nuclear power, producing more than 96,000 gigawatt hours. 19 states tie for last with zero, zip.

If I were an energy czar I would use this data to create benchmarks, telling states in the lower tier of each category to get up to at least average. I would use nudges, rewards, penalties and maybe even game shows.

That should be the point of breaking these numbers down this way.