Welcome to 3000Quads

Hi all.

I am concerned about the future of energy on this planet. It appears to me as though we are consciously ignoring some brutal realities about how much energy we are going to burn during this century, helped I think by some miscalculations by those charged with forecasting future consumption.

While we’re busy ignoring this, we have been having political battles about climate change, renewable energy, government subsidies and a lot of things related to energy. But because we’re starting off with bad numbers, a lot of the arguments, initiatives and conclusions don’t really mean very much.

I hope to show you how and why in this blog. I hope to see old friends (and even some ‘enemies’) show up here to discuss this. For those who remember me from discussions about climate change, this blog is not about that–or not very much. I may have a Sunday morning post on the subject just to keep my hand in and to give some people a chance to holler at me electronically.

But the bulk of this blog will revolve around one basic equation: The medium range UN forecast for population in 2075 is between 9.5 and 9.9 billion souls. Per capita income is estimated in the IPCC A1 SRES (a scenario of future growth used by many climate scientists and policy analysts) at about $66,500 in today’s money. That means most of the world will be richer than Americans are today. Assuming that there will still be a Bottom Billion amongst us (to our shame), if the 8.9 billion people who are actively part of this miraculous new world are consuming energy at the rate Americans are today (330 million btus per person per year), the world will consume 3,000 quads every year.

That is an amount of energy hard to visualize. Each quad represents the energy liberated from 37.8 million tons of coal, which would fit on a train that was 3,780 miles long.

If that energy need comes to pass and we are forced through inadequate planning to satisfy it with coal, we’re sunk. And yet we are using forecasts for the short and medium term future that assume a much lower rate of consumption.

This poses a problem for us, one I hope to discuss at length.

56 responses to “Welcome to 3000Quads

  1. You make the assumption that people will use energy at the rate Americans do if they get as rich. I don’t think that there is any evidence to support that. The richer parts of Europe certainly don’t.

    The best news on that front is that America is not where the growth will take place. It will take place in the parts of the world that are developing along a much more efficient path, ie India, China and Africa. I suspect they will prove to use 1/10th to 1/5th what American do now at the same wealth level.

    The bad news is according to my science friends is that still won’t be enough to avert major climate change, nor will any other realistic programme. Things are going to change. Get used to it.

  2. Dr. Bryan (Hi Scott!), I actually don’t make that assumption, as I hope later posts will show. I hope that the developing world takes as its goal the Northern European model, where people use about half the energy per capita as we wastrel Americans and still manage to have quite a decent life.

    • The reason we use relatively small amounts of energy in the uk is that it’s so expensive. This is affecting our businesses and means that we have a very high proportion of our citizens in fuel poverty. It is not a model to follow but having said that the united states does appear to be profligate and that needs to change, but by education rather than a crude pricing mechanism.
      Tonyb

  3. Willis Eschenbach

    Thomas, first, congratulations on your new blog.

    Second, there is a huge problem with using the IPCC numbers as you have. They are based on MER, and not (as they should be) on PPP. This leads to a huge distortion of the economic picture.

    This was critiqued by Castles and Henderson, discussed here. Inter alia they say:

    The practice of exchange rate conversion has been explicitly rejected by at least three Nobel Laureates in economics (Sir Richard Stone, Paul Samuelson and Amartya Sen) and three Distinguished Fellows of the American Economic Association (Irving Kravis, Robert Summers and Alan Heston). In the course of the current controversy, Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University has told Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, a leading IPCC figure, that “Castles is of course completely right” (in rejecting the use of “outmoded accounting practices”); William Nordhaus of Yale University advised an IPCC Expert Meeting on Emissions Scenarios last January that estimates of output or income using exchange rates are “simply wrong”, “constructed on an economically unsound basis”, “fundamentally wrong”, “highly misleading” and “precisely wrong”; Richard Tol of Hamburg University informed the recent UK House of Lords Committee inquiry into “The Economics of Climate Change” that the IPCC scenarios “essentially assume convergence based on market exchange rates, which is ludicrous”; Ross McKitrick of Guelph University drew the Committee’s attention to a statement by John Reilly of MIT that the IPCC scenarios exercise was “in my view, a kind of insult to science”; and the world’s leading expert on historical international comparisons of output and income, Angus Maddison, gave the Committee “an illustration of the implausibility of using exchange rate converters in historical analysis or futurology (as in the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios) In its unanimous report, the 13-member Select Committee on Economic Affairs of the House of Lords said that “We found no support for the use of MER in [long-term emissions scenarios], other than from Dr Nakicenovic of the IPCC.”

    None of this criticism has moved the IPCC. Its Chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri of India, told the House of Lords Committee that the criticism of the emissions scenarios “only validates the methodology that the IPCC used earlier” and “does not invalidate it”.

    Of course, since MER fits into the IPCC scenario by wildly inflating future energy use, they continued to use in in AR4, despite the C-H critique, and may use it again in AR5, I don’t know.

    But you should not repeat their mistake. The IPCC numbers are wrong, way wrong, and should not be used in such analyses as you are doing above.

    Other than that, excellent focus for your new blog, keep it up,

    All the best,

    w.

    • Willis, so glad to see you here! Welcome and I hope you’ll come back.

      I’ve followed the PPP/MER battles for years–my takeaway is that there are times when one is better than the other, and plenty of room to argue which is right for which metric.

      If I understand your objection at all, it is that the IPCC’s use of exchange rates for future income inaccurately values the income per capita as used in my post. (Please don’t hesitate to tell me I’m mistaken.) However, typically exchange rates under-value incomes in the developing world, one of the reasons the PPP measurement was adopted. Am I getting something wrong here?

      I will certainly defend the thesis of the post–that incomes in the developing world will rise dramatically over the course of the century, and that this will lead to equally dramatic rises in energy consumption. Whether the IPCC income estimates are the best available to show that is something I can readily be dissuaded on. I’ll have a look at other measurements.

      At any rate, keep the comments coming. The early days of a weblog (this is my sixth) always feel like moving into a new apartment before you’ve furnished it.

    • Hi Willis,

      A quick search brought me to Price Waterhouse Cooper’s 2006 paper on future income in the top emerging countries. I’ll quote from the introduction:

      “The first important conclusion from this research is that there is no single right way to measure the relative size of emerging economies such as China and India as compared to the established OECD economies. Depending on the purpose of the exercise, GDP at either market exchange rates or PPP rates may be most appropriate measure. In general, GDP at PPPs is a better indicator of average living standards or volumes of outputs or inputs, while GDP at current exchange rates is a better measure of the size of markets for OECD exporters and investors operating in hard currencies. For long-term investments, however, it is important to take into account the likely rise in real market exchange rates in emerging economies towards their PPP rates in the long run, although our modelling results suggest that, for countries such as China and India, this exchange rate adjustment may still not be fully complete even by 2050.

      The second conclusion is that, in our base case projections, the E7 economies will by 2050 be around 25% larger than the current G7 when measured in dollar terms at market exchange rates (MER), or around 75% larger in PPP terms. In contrast, the E7 is currently only around 20% of the size of the G7 at market exchange rates and around 75% of its size in PPP terms.”

      Their paper is here: http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/world-2050/pdf/world2050emergingeconomies.pdf

      For the moment, I think I’m going to assume that the problem doesn’t disappear or even reduce much in magnitude depending on whether we use PPP or exchange rates. But happy to talk about it.

    • Another major error source slipped innocuously into the presumptions:
      “The medium range UN forecast for population in 2075 is between 9.5 and 9.9 billion souls.” (And note that ‘the bulk of this blog will revolve around [this] one basic equation.)
      Unfortunately, the “medium range” forecast has always been wrong. The one that has always been right is the lowest edge of the lowest band — and it currently predicts a peak at under 8 bn. by ~2035, with a slow decline thereafter. Mostly because of standard of living enhancement.

      So Mr. Fuller is off the rails before he even works up a head of steam.

  4. Your basic equation is the proper focus. The case for fossil fuel replacement is made by economics, the environment, public health,
    security, climate and the march of human progress. Let’s not waste time on whether one sub case is better or worse than another.

    The equation tells us where we want to be 30 – 70 years out. I hope the discussion here will be about what we should be doing today, this week, this month, this year.

    • Hi Paul

      Good to see you, too! Old home week, here.

      I hope you can be a bit patient with me. I fully intend to spend a large amount of time and energy on how current practice can change future outcomes. But I feel obligated to chart out what the future may look like without changes first.

      Just trying to motivate people…

  5. Willis Eschenbach

    Thanks for the welcome, Thomas. Let me review the bidding again. PPP vs. MER is not some wishy-washy “either way is ok” New Age kind of deal.

    • Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University has told Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, a leading IPCC figure, that “Castles is of course completely right” (in rejecting the use of “outmoded accounting practices”).

    • William Nordhaus of Yale University advised an IPCC Expert Meeting on Emissions Scenarios last January that estimates of output or income using exchange rates are “simply wrong”, “constructed on an economically unsound basis”, “fundamentally wrong”, “highly misleading” and “precisely wrong”.

    • Richard Tol of Hamburg University informed the recent UK House of Lords Committee inquiry into “The Economics of Climate Change” that the IPCC scenarios “essentially assume convergence based on market exchange rates, which is ludicrous.

    • Ross McKitrick of Guelph University drew the Committee’s attention to a statement by John Reilly of MIT that the IPCC scenarios exercise was “in my view, a kind of insult to science”.

    • The world’s leading expert on historical international comparisons of output and income, Angus Maddison, gave the Committee “an illustration of the implausibility of using exchange rate converters in historical analysis or futurology (as in the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios).

    • In its unanimous report, the 13-member Select Committee on Economic Affairs of the House of Lords said that ‘We found no support for the use of MER in [long-term emissions scenarios], other than from Dr Nakicenovic of the IPCC.”

    You can’t just handwave that away, Thomas. If you continue to use MER, you need to explain why Dasgupta and Nordhaus and Tol and McKitrick and Maddision, all eminent statisticians in their field, are wrong and you, Thomas Fuller, are right. Maybe Nordhaus and Tol and McKitrick and the rest are indeed wrong, but you can’t assume that, you have to show that.

    The specific problem from your perspective is that, as Castles and Henderson pointed out, using MER leads to projections of crazy-big economic growth, and that in turn implies that there will be corresponding huge energy use.

    For example, the IPCC figures say that in the year 2100, Americans will be poorer on average than South Africans, Algerians, Argentines, Libyans, Turks and North Koreans.

    Now, maybe you believe that, Thomas … I’ll pass. It certainly explains the huge energy use numbers given by the IPCC.

    You can utilize the IPCC energy use figures if you wish. But be aware that:

    • the numbers are way high, which will skew your results in the direction of alarmism

    • people will point at your results and say “sure, as soon as Algerians are richer than Americans, I’ll believe Fuller!”

    • it will open your results to attack on the basis of wildly unreasonable growth scenarios.

    • it makes you look as far behind the times as the IPCC itself, not good company to be keeping.

    My best to you,

    w.

    • Hi again, Willis–seems like old times.

      It’s not only the IPCC that uses exchange rates–if you had a chance to look at the PWC paper, you’ll see that they helpfully used both exchange rates and PPP. In Table A on p. 4, they show percentage growth in GDP (not income) per capita at both exchange rates and PPP.

      Just to highlight one finding of this procedure, they note that ” India has the potential to be the fastest growing large economy in world over the period to 2050, with a GDP at the end of this period of close to 60% of that of the US
      at market exchange rates, or of similar size to the US in PPP terms.”

      They actually show higher totals with PPP than at exchange rates (which I think is the generally accepted belief about this). The World Bank uses exchange rates smoothed over a number of years to minimize volatility–the Atlas Method, they call it

      But again, however it is calculated, both the IPCC and PWC assume a very high rate of growth for India. And a very high rate of energy consumption.

  6. Technology can move a long way in 50 years. Best not to get too stressed about this. The real problems will come from things we’ve not thought of yet.

    • Hi Sean, and thanks for the comment.

      I agree, and we’ll be talking a lot about technology. I don’t want to be stressed. I want to be prepared–especially for the stuff that comes out of left field and surprises us.

  7. Tom,

    Haven’t actually read your posts. Just wanted to congratulate you on the new blog.

    I’m hoping you’ve seen the light and are reborn as a conservative, small government, free-marketeer, who goes to church, and drives and SUV (preferably with a big engine). If not, I want you to know that I’m here to help.

    Seriously though, Good Luck

  8. Well Mr. Fuller lovely to hear from you again.

    The blogosphere can always do with another honest man in its forum: or should that be fora?

    Not that I necessarily agree with you as you may remember. But that is for another day.

    Once again welcome back.

    Kindest Regards

  9. PK Writes:

    “The case for fossil fuel replacement is made by economics, the environment, public health, security, climate and the march of human progress.”

    Agreed, and would add, we have most of the answers already.
    There is not much need for more politics, philosophizing, studying, and papers. Fewer words, more action, & more solar panels.

  10. Tom,

    I just found out from The Air Vent that you are back and that’s great. Just dropping in to say “Hi” and will read up later.

  11. Tom, Glad you are back. I am going to limit my comments to areas were I have some expertise.
    My personal happiness has never been proportional to the energy I have consumed. Quite the opposite. I have been happier when I had a comfortable residence which did not require much heat and could commute by bike.
    Happiness per BTU is what we should be optimizing.

  12. Hi Tom,

    Welcome back to blogging. We’ve missed you.

    As you know, I’m a “lukewarmer” and I believe you may find this posting on my blog to be interesting. http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2012/01/worst-case-nothing-happens.html

    I believe we are very close to the point where the IPCC/Gore hypothesis of catastrophic global warming is falsified. That is not to say humans are not warming the earth, but that it is at a much lesser rate than they project.

  13. If you are genuinely concerned about energy, you must first understand that the origin, composition and source of energy that heats planet Earth has been hidden from the public since ~1971-72, when data from analysis of meteorites and samples from the Apollo Mission started to reveal evidence that the Sun might be the remnant of the supernova that made our elements instead of a giant ball of Hydrogen heated by H-fusion.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.doc

    The photosphere (91% H and 9% He), commonly called the surface of the Sun, is but a glowing cloud of waste products from the Sun’s pulsar core.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

      • Thanks, Thomas.

        We live in “interesting times.”

        World leaders and their armies of government-funded scientists have failed to change reality to fit their model.

        After squandering literally billions of dollars to build H-fusion reactors (like their model of the Sun) to meet future energy needs, . . .

        They are afraid to admit their model is unrealistic fantasy – about as plausible as a model of the apple that assumes the interior must be red because the visible surface is red!

  14. Welcome back Tom 🙂 I probably won’t comment that often, but I’ll be here, hanging around at the back, listening to what’s said.

  15. Pingback: Welcome to 3000Quads | Cranky Old Crow

  16. Welcome back Tom.

    The answer lies in your quote “In general, GDP at PPPs is a better indicator of average living standards or volumes of outputs or inputs, while GDP at current exchange rates is a better measure of the size of markets for OECD exporters and investors operating in hard currencies.”

    You are defining the markets of the future world as mature energy users, and the markets have grown to meet your model. The question is are you interested in the path, a model from MER to PPP, or the endpoint?

    If it is the endpoint, China and Indai 50 years from, 9 billion souls in a developed economy, PPP will be the correct chaoice as can be made without over-complicating, or over-compensating the model. YMMV.

    • Thanks, John. You make the choices clear and point out the implications. For this round I have already used exchange rates and will present them here. I will address the PPP alternatives later.

  17. I most likely missed it somewhere, how many guads do we use today, thanks?

  18. Willis Eschenbach

    Thomas, you’ve posed a fascinating issue. I wanted to do a bit of sensitivity analysis on your statement below:

    But the bulk of this blog will revolve around one basic equation: The medium range UN forecast for population in 2075 is between 9.5 and 9.9 billion souls. Per capita income is estimated in the IPCC A1 SRES (a scenario of future growth used by many climate scientists and policy analysts) at about $66,500 in today’s money. That means most of the world will be richer than Americans are today. Assuming that there will still be a Bottom Billion amongst us (to our shame), if the 8.9 billion people who are actively part of this miraculous new world are consuming energy at the rate Americans are today (330 million btus per person per year), the world will consume 3,000 quads every year.

    I ran the numbers using the BP statistical review of energy, and I was able to confirm your linear estimate of 3000 quads to get most of the world to the US energy consumption level. I confirmed as well as your figures for the US, Denmark, and China. So we’re in agreement there. However, and you may not like this, there are two crucial factors that you have not included that have a huge effect on the results of your equation.

    First, every year the amount of GDP produced per unit of energy is dropping as the various processes become more efficient. Consider the amount of energy used to move a letter by Pony Express across the US in the 1800s, versus the energy to email the same letter across the US. Technology in general is about doing more with less energy. We can measure this energy efficiency for various countries as their country energy use divided by their GDP. This is how much energy it takes them to produce a thousand dollars of GDP.

    In 1970, the US used about 0.32 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) for each $!,000 of GDP (PPP, constant 2005 $). Denmark was more efficient, at 0.24 TOE/$1000 of GDP.

    In 2007 (lastest figures I’ve found) the US energy use had dropped to 0.18 TOE/$1000, and Denmark’s had dropped to 0.10 TOE/$1000.

    Now, by 2075, I would very conservatively estimate that both of those numbers, for Denmark and the US, would have dropped by half. Both have dropped by about that since 1970, and there is no indication that the drop has ended.

    This means that to get to the current level of development of either the US or Denmark will only require half the energy use you estimate … so out of the door we’re looking at half of your figure, or 1500 quads.

    Second, the US uses lots of energy per $1000 of GDP, for a variety of reasons. Part of this is historical—we produced lots of oil in the last century and so it was cheap and we tend to waste a lot of it. Any nation on the way up will desire to be like Denmark rather than the US. So assuming that the convergence will be at the US end of the scale is problematic. Most of the European nations currently have energy efficiencies in the range of Denmark (Italy 0.11 TOE/$1000, Spain 0.13, Germany 0.12, UK 0.11). So the convergence is much more likely to be on the European rather than the American model, nobody will be wanting to waste energy.

    Again, this will give an additional 50% reduction in your estimate of future fuel use (Denmark uses about half the fuel per capita as the US). Now we’re down to an energy use in 2075 of 750 quads.

    That is how much it would take for the 8.9 billion people (9.9 billion less what you aptly call the “billion of shame”) to have a standard of living the same as Denmark or other European countries.

    750 quads.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very large task. But the evidence indicates we will only need about a quarter of the energy you estimate in 2075 for most everyone to be living like the Danes and other Europeans …

    Like I said … you might not like my numbers … or maybe so. Maybe you look at that and say, “That’s great, it will only take a quarter of what I thought, this is much more possible”.

    Anyhow, I’m just the numbers man. How you interpret them is up to you.

    w.

    • Hiya Willis

      Well, let’s see where this takes us. First, my thinking has been really focused on the developing world, so talking through changes in the U.S. and the rest of the rich world will expose a certain lack of familiarity with the statistics for now. So let’s hope I don’t embarrass myself too much here.

      The EIA projects energy consumption at a CAGR of 0.3% for the OECD nations through 2035, which matches well with your comments about improving efficiencies of our societies. I think it may be possible you overestimate the impacts of that, however. Energy efficiency is estimated to improve at about 1% per year. If for the sake of argument only we take that as true for the past 22 years, we would expect better performance from American energy usage at least, which has only improved 5% on a per capita basis over that period. Part of that is due to Jevon’s Paradox, now becoming better known as the Rebound Effect. I don’t know what explanations are offered for the rest of the discrepancy.

      At any rate, all of my thinking is informed by a much higher growth rate in the developing world, as tens of millions start climbing the energy ladder. The EIA projects that they will grow at a CAGR of 2.3% through 2030. My calculations are that the CAGR will be about 5% in the countries that matter most. This will overwhelm the modest gains in efficiencies we realize in the OECD and lead to the massive totals that inspired this blog. Eventually they too will begin to reap the benefits of energy efficiency gains. But they’re going to grab the cheapest washing machine/refrigerator/television/automobile they can to participate in the modern society. They’ll opt in to the local equivalent of Energy Star later.

      Willis, I know this is very broad brush thinking at this point. Hope you’ll stick around while I develop my case in greater detail. And don’t stop getting in my face–I know you’re reality based, and I need exactly what you’re providing.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Indeed, there is always more to learn, Thomas, many thanks for your kind reply.

        Your basic equation wraps up all of the CAGRs in both population and economic growth in one package by figuring that by 2075, there will be 8.9 billion people living at the level of the US. The individual growth rates are all already included in that final calculation.

        We both agree that you have not included the increases in efficiency. These have hardly been “modest”, we’re getting twice the GDP dollars out of a barrel of oil that we did forty years ago. There is no reason to assume that will not be matched by another 50% cut in fuel use/GDP in the next sixty years, and every reason to assume that it will. That’s 50% more time than it took to make the last 50% cut.

        However, you cannot “offset” that gain in efficiency against any of the CAGRs you mention above as you propose, because they are already included in your “basic equation” about the 8.9 billion folks. So this is a totally separate factor, an extremely probable cut of 50% in your underlying figures, one that is not negated or lessened by any of the factors you mentioned above.

        Certainly as you say the developing folks will buy cheap and dirty first, and then “opt in to the local equivalent of Energy Star later”. But surely “later” will come well within the 75 years, as nations approach the economic status of today’s Europe. They will always be buying yesterday’s technology as you point out … but in 2070, they will be buying 2060’s technology, and it will be guaranteed to be much more efficient than today’s machinery and appliances.

        Nor are the improvements in energy efficiency restricted to Europe, the same pattern prevails almost everywhere. In fact the developing countries in some cases have larger efficiency gains than the major economies. Even the poor countries are improving their energy efficiency.

        As a result, I say max 1500 quads to bring 8.9 billion folks to the level of the US, 750 to bring them to the level of Denmark.

        All the best,

        w.

      • Well, Willis, I hope we’re both around to see the final results. I think the increases in efficiency are swamped by Jevon’s Paradox to some extent and the large increases in population and GDP. If Roger Pielke were around he could probably make the argument more cogently. But I’m spending my time here working from the bottom up–so these top-down examinations don’t play to my strengths at this point. But we’ll see.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Thanks, Thomas. You say again that the ” increases in efficiency are swamped by Jevon’s Paradox to some extent and the large increases in population and GDP. ” This is wishful thinking.

        I say again that the large increases in GDP and population are already included in your equation. Your equation is:

        8.9 billion people times 330 Mbtu/cap (US use) = 3,000 quads

        The increase in population is in your equation already. The increase in GDP is in your equation already. What is not in your equation is the increase in efficiency.

        So GDP and population cannot possibly “swamp” the new factor. You have already included them.

        Indeed, you have also included Jeavons Paradox. Remember that we are dealing here with real-world numbers for fuel use and gdp and population. As a result, the fuel use figures and gdp figures must include the effects of Jeavons Paradox as well as everything else under the sun. They are the end result actual numbers, after Jeavon’s and all other paradoxes have had their way.

        So Jeavons Paradox cannot “swamp” the efficiency gains either. The effect of Jeavons is already present in the energy use data, so it has already affected the energy efficiency figures. Those are net efficiency gains AFTER the effect of Jeavons Paradox.

        Thomas, you can’t handwave away the effect of increasing efficiency by hoping that something else will “swamp” it. You must include it if you want your estimate to be taken seriously. There is no question that the world will become more efficient. We’ve cut fuel use per GDP in half in the last forty years, it would be a serious error to assume that we will not do the same again in the next sixty years. You cannot leave efficiency out of the equation.

        It will not take more than 1500 quads/yr to get the world to the US standard, and not more than 750 quads/yr to get them to Danish/European standard.

        All the best to you,

        w.

      • Hiya Willis! Just like old times, innit?

        You wrote yesterday that “First, every year the amount of GDP produced per unit of energy is dropping as the various processes become more efficient. …Now, by 2075, I would very conservatively estimate that both of those numbers, for Denmark and the US, would have dropped by half. Both have dropped by about that since 1970, and there is no indication that the drop has ended.” Let’s start with that. First, why do you think a 50% reduction in energy inefficiency is conservative?

        Secondly, during the period you reference–1970 through 2010–US energy consumption per capita did decline, show you are correct (at least in this case) about the concept of improving energy efficiency. However, total energy consumption increase from 80 to 100 quads, showing that Pielke Jr. is correct (at least in this case) about the ability of a growing GDP and population to overcome the effects of technology improvements, at least in the short term. The US GDP grew in constant 2005 dollars from 4.3 trillion to 13.1 trillion dollars, the US population grew from 203 million to 308 million during the same period, hence our energy consumption grew by 20% despite improving energy efficiency.

        That’s what’s going to happen to the whole world this century.

    • Willis, I just noticed one thing in your calculations–did you hold GDP constant for the US when you calculated the gains from energy efficiency improvements?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Not exactly sure what you mean, Thomas. Each year’s energy efficiency is the total energy used that year (in TOE) divided by the GDP for that same year (PPP, in constant 2005 dollars).

        My regards,

        w.

    • W.;
      I think you flipped this statement:
      “First, every year the amount of GDP produced per unit of energy is dropping as the various processes become more efficient. ”
      It’s the reverse: “First, every year the amount of GDP produced per unit of energy is dropping increasing as the various processes become more efficient.” Or, “First, every year the units of energy used per given amount of GDP is dropping as the various processes become more efficient.”

    • See my comment above. Don’t take the “medium range” UN projection as given; it’s always way high. Every decade, the low edge of the low range has been correct. It now projects peaking in 2035 or so at under 8 bn.

      • Hi Brian,

        Thanks for your comment. On one level I want to ignore it because I would have to recalculate all my figures if you are correct. On another level, I want to ignore it because my I don’t want to change the title of my blog to 2,144Quads ;). There are assumptions in any endeavor of this sort, and the UN Population Division may have learned from prior mistakes. If you’re convinced the lower estimates are more likely to come to pass, it’s pretty easy to discount my total by the appropriate amount. But it won’t change the central conclusions of what I put forward.

      • Oh, I think it will; declining population after 2035 changes just about everything. Especially because it results mostly from improved living standards and the commensurate improved efficiency of energy use per $ of GDP.

        There are also major issues with your treatment of improved NG recovery technology, and what Nordhaus calls the (hypothetical) “low-cost fallback” — a new energy source as a result of future tech which is cheap and green and plentiful. These wild cards are going to knock your estimates into a cocked hat, IMO. (I even know what the “low-cost fallback” is going to be, I think.) In addition, the continued improvement of agricultural productivity due to raised CO2 and (your assumed) warming will easily accommodate food requirements.

        Things get a bit tougher if the planet takes a 2 or 3 decade cooling detour, of course. But improved tech and other advances since the LIA will strongly mitigate and buffer the worst effects.

      • Brian, I have seen no prediction or projection anywhere at all that posits a decline in population after 2035. Anywhere. Can you guide us to the calculations and provenance of such a claim? That would be stop-the-presses important.

      • TF;
        It’s now harder to dig out, but this is still available:
        http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Excel-Data/DB04_Population_ByAgeSex_Annual/WPP2010_DB4_F1A_POPULATION_BY_AGE_BOTH_SEXES_ANNUAL_1950-2010.XLS
        Click the “low” tab. That gives the center of the low band; graphic versions I’d seen previously showed the ‘80% confidence’ range around that, and it seems historically the low edge is always accurate. The center low band shows decline beginning in ’45, while the lowest edge showed ’35.

        Here’s a website citing those numbers (not sure whether they’re updated from the 2010 ones I referenced above:

        U.N. Population Database.

        While they provide Low, Medium, and High Variants, the Low Variant is the one that keeps coming true, so the Low variant numbers are the ones used in this video. Check their online database.

        The reason this is not “stop-the-presses” important is that the presses are run by those who don’t care to mention the (accurate) low band. You’ll notice they all stick with the “medium” projection. Like you did.

  19. P.S. I just caught your joke in your response: “the UN Population Division may have learned from prior mistakes.” Very witty! Of course what the UN does in reality is double-down on its mistakes until it can arrange to revise the record to make them disappear.

  20. Tom

    It would be interesting to see a calculation that showed how much energy the top 20 economies could easily save by plucking the so called ‘low hanging fruit’ (such things as improved insulation, more economical vehicles and other measures which wouldn’t adversely impact on peoples life styles).

    There is a further calculation that could demonstrate how much extra power coud be ‘easily’ generated from existing power stations (where substantial infrastructure already exists) by updating the technology, which would be more efficient and less ‘polluting.’

    In other words there are a number of measures that could be quickly taken which could substantially reduce the 3000quads (even assuming that figure is correct).

    This reflects that power needs to be cheap and reliable if our economies are to thrive, and also that renewables have not yet come of age and could not supply any meaningful percentage of the total needed at a sensible cost for probably several decades.

    Security of supply (from internal sources if possible) does need to be factored in and that might mean that fracking and coal use will have a place for many nations.

    For renewables to come of age more quickly we really need a concerted CERN or Apollo type project whereby leading nations come together in a co-operative manner with a single minded objective rather than lots of disparate projects without focus.
    tonyb

    • Hi Tony

      I agree. I would include uprating of hydroelectric dams, retrofitting combined heat and power facilities onto existing electricity generating plants, etc. I can see we’ll be getting into some discussion of Socolow’s wedges sooner rather than later…

  21. tonyb;
    “For renewables to come of age more quickly we really need a concerted CERN or Apollo type project…”
    To make a silk purse, you must start with silkworms, not sows.

  22. With Cern they don’t even know if the silkworms or sows even exist 🙂

    tonyb

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