What will 2075 look like if we’re burning 3000 quads every year?

There are two pitfalls I want to avoid falling into in discussing the medium term future as it relates to energy consumption.

The first is straight-line mania. Example: We used 500 quads in 2010. If we use 3000 quads in 2075, let’s just multiply everything by six. So, if we have 50,000 coal fired electricity plants now, we’ll have 300,000 coal fired electricity plants then. I don’t think for one minute that that’s the way it will play out, and just a quick look at headlines over the past decade show that we react more quickly than that assumption would include.

The second pitfall is doomsterism–that consuming 3,000 quads will precipitate a crisis that causes such a radical reordering of the world’s economies and political systems that it makes prognosticating useless. I don’t think that’s going to happen either. Will using 3,000 quads a year have an environmental and climate impact? Yes, without a doubt. Will we be swimming in lakes from Kansas to Kamchatka? No, we won’t–the consensus on climate change and alternative energy will guide decisions that will begin (note: begin) to mitigate some of the impacts of our energy consumption, primarily in the portfolio mix of fuel sources.

It’s something we’re going to have to manage.

Because of the intensity with which the climate wars have been waged over the past couple of years, it’s probably best for me to lay my cards on the table right here at the beginning:

  • Do I believe that burning 3,000 quads a year will have an impact on the climate? Yes. Definitely.
  • Do I believe that that impact will be negative overall? Yes. Definitely.
  • Do I think we should begin taking steps now to reduce that impact? Yes. Definitely.
  • Do I honestly believe there are actions we can take that will materially reduce that impact? Yes. Definitely.

That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this.

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