U.S. Energy Consumption in 2035: Analyzing the DOE’s Projections

Before we try and do any serious thinking (and while my brain still is recharging after my recent project), let’s look through the Department of Energy’s report, Annual Energy Outlook 2012 with Projections to 2035 and get the numbers racked up.

Let’s start with macroeconomic figures. The DOE’s Reference Case (the center projection on which they base their analyses, by and large) shows the U.S. GDP growing from $13.318 trillion in 2011 to $24.539 trillion in 2035, a growth rate of 2.5% (those are all in 2005 dollars, btw). As they forecast consumption growing at a slower rate–2.3%–they apparently don’t think we’re going to go out and spend all that extra money.

Well, they’re certainly not going overboard with enthusiasm about our future. A 2.5% growth rate is low. It’s not out of line with what others predict about our future, mind you. But for example, 2010 had growth of 3% and I don’t think anybody was thinking we were utilizing all our economic capacity that year. In fact, U.S. GDP was higher than 2.5% in 5 of the last 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

And I’m starting to notice some things that bother me. The next thing I want to check is population, which is normally the most significant driver of energy usage. But although they say on page 25 that they project U.S. population to increase by 25% over the period covered by their report, they don’t give a total or the reference number that the 25% is added to. And I see that happening throughout the report–percentages without base numbers. They didn’t do that in prior years. This troubles me.

But okay–the U.S. Census Bureau’s mid-year estimate for 2011 was 311,591,917 and a 25% increase would be 77,897,979 for a total of 389,381,896. That’s a growth rate of 0.93%.

So when I get back into thinking mode, my first question is likely to be, if you think population is going to grow by 0.93% annually and you think that GDP is going to grow by 2.5% annually, is it realistic to project (as the report does) that energy will grow by 0.3% annually?

Look at the above numbers. Income increases from $13 trillion to $24 trillion. Population increases from 311 million to 389 million. And the DOE is telling us that energy consumption will grow from 98 quads to 107 quads.

That’s a whole lot of non-consuming going on.

Well, I’m sure I will see the light after some July rest and relaxation.


2 responses to “U.S. Energy Consumption in 2035: Analyzing the DOE’s Projections

  1. They probably figure most of the GDP growth will be going to the 1% who accumulate rather than spend.

  2. DOE is lousy forecaster. I am sure that GDP will grow faster 2,5%, energy consumption will grow 1%, If Obummer will be out of White House, EPA will be abolished or defanged, environazis will be bring to bar of justice. If no US will cease to exist as USSR, conficts for the shrinking prosperity pie tear US as it was in USSR.
    I hope progress will prevail, if no, regress will prevail.
    There are only two ways – one ways – way of ultratechnology and Star Trek like technologies, another way – way of Mad Max and Fallout with final extinction of human species as don’t capable to fullfill evolutionary role.

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