The Present, The Plan and The Fear

Previously I posted on the DOE EIA’s estimates of current energy usage by the 5 largest consumers.  I also posted on what the EIA projects their consumption to be in 2030.

However, long-time readers of this blog will know that way back a few years ago I estimated energy consumption on my own. I felt that both the EIA and its sister organization the IEA were not paying attention to rising energy consumption in the developing world.

What I did was take estimates for GDP rise for future years, look at the energy consumption per capita for countries that currently have achieved that level of GDP, pro-rate the per capita energy consumption for the emerging countries using the UN estimates of future population, and came up with a much higher level of energy consumption. I later did the same for OECD countries and came up with a coherent, if not necessarily correct, global total that shows future global energy consumption to be 3,000 quads in 2075. Hence the title of this blog. For reference purposes, the world used about 510 quads in 2010.

Now, the EIA keeps bumping up their estimate every time they re-do their study, as I pointed out here. But not by enough.

So with that as preamble, here are EIA estimates for current consumption for the five biggest consumers, their projections for the same countries in 2030 and my projections for 2030.

2013 EIA 2030 Fuller 2030
China 124.9 198.9 246.6
USA 119.8 102.3 108.5
Russia 30.6 38 31.65
India 26.9 42.6 84.57
Japan 21.4 23 19.4
Totals 323.6 404.8 490.72

Readers will note that I actually forecast lower consumption than the EIA for Japan and Russia, based primarily on slowdowns in population growth and lower GDP growth. However, the dramatically higher total is due principally to continued growth in energy consumption in China and India.

The EIA predicted global energy consumption would reach 721 quads in 2030. My figures show 952.3 quads.

If I am correct (and I have a standing invitation to anyone who can suggest where I am mistaken) it has implications for global warming. In part because the EIA and IEA are estimating lower totals, planners are not planning for a higher level of energy consumption. This makes it likely that when demand for energy rises it will be met with the cheapest and quickest source available–coal, guaranteeing much higher levels of emissions and a larger contribution to global warming, no matter how low atmospheric sensitivity is.

But we’ll also see other effects. My fear is that many cities in the developing world will start to resemble Beijing on a bad day. And the consequences of that will be even more immediate than global warming.

Pollution-at-Tiananmen-Square-Beijing

4 responses to “The Present, The Plan and The Fear

  1. I think your estimates for India is low. They still have major power rationing because of too high demand. Also, people tend to just steal power from the lines

    You have roughly a 7% growth rate for India over 17 years, I expect it to go much higher as the power cuts are eliminated.

  2. I tried to be both consistent and conservative when I did the calculations. India may well grow more quickly under Modi–I certainly hope so. But they dipped down to 5% in recent years due to bureaucracy and falling exports. They face real challenges.

    By the way, my economic calculations are heavily informed by the Economist, which of course doesn’t make them right. But if they do prove correct, credit where due…

  3. I think they would–if they could. They are Exhibit A for latent demand for energy. They just can’t get it.

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