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.



9 responses to “Our Global Energy Future

  1. Pingback: The most important post I have ever written | The Lukewarmer's Way

  2. Tm producing those quads of energy has the potential, if the climate fanatics don’t derail it, of lifting much of the third world from poverty. Producing those quads will create and support vast wealth worldwide, if the climate fanatics do not force us to use loser technologies like wind or solar to produce that power. The human activities that will help people as a result of that energy being produced will far more than outweigh the potential problems.You are an analyst: Analyze the wealth produced by a quad of energy. Simply saying we consume the power gives credence to the cliamte fanatics and other misanthropes who are basically anti-anything that helps people.
    I think the facts will show that reasonable controls on real pollutants like heavy metals and soot/carbon black will allow the wealth produced by serious power- coal, hydro, natural gas, nuclear, to more than deal with any actual problems of CO2 increases. At least that is what the facts to date show. And I see no reason to think those facts will change. Unless the climate fanatics get to rewrite the history and remove the facts.

  3. Hiya hunter! For years I have been making exactly that case–that we cannot immiserate the poor regarding energy availability. I still believe that to be the case.

    Nonetheless, I believe that increasing our use of coal is not wise. Do you believe that India will in fact place reasonable controls on real pollutants? I do not.

  4. I don’t know if i linked this for you in the past. I grouped nations into three separate groups: EU, USA look alike, and China lookalike with regards to emissions controls. Then I estimated co2 concentrations. And I compared it to my own previous concentration estimate which assumed a more market oriented emissions profile.

    The results are here


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  6. As a progressive who sees financial catastrophe as well as bad human effects, such as a war resulting from the upcoming Bangladesh disasters and diaspora, that doesn’t make me not yearn for huge amounts of energy and electricity. That’s what gets work done and progress made. Conservation is obvious and hugely helpful but it won’t do what 1,000 Quads of solar power will.

  7. Pingback: Climate Change May Be Global. The Solution Is Not. | The Lukewarmer's Way

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