Energy Sources: History, Selection, and Transitions


United States

Figure 15. Energy sources in U.S. to 2030 (quadrillion Btu)

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the annual primary energy consumption in the U.S. will increase from 101.9 quadrillion Btu in 2007 to 113.6 quadrillion Btu in 2030 if current conditions continue, an increase of 0.5 percent per year (184) (Figure 15). This slow rate of growth will be due to increased efficiency of power production and use, and higher energy prices, especially if policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are enacted.

If current conditions continue, the EIA also predicts that oil prices will rebound to $130 per barrel by 2030 (184). With more stringent fuel economy standards and an increase in the use of biofuels due to the renewable fuel standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, oil consumption over the next 20 years is likely to remain steady. Oil imports are predicted to decline from 58 percent of the total oil consumption in 2007 to 41 percent in 2030 due to a rise in domestic oil and biofuel production. Renewable fuel production is predicted to increase 3.3 percent annually (184). This rate could be higher if oil prices increase significantly.

Uncertainty regarding greenhouse gas emission policies is affecting plans for future electrical generation. Natural gas consumption is expected to increase significantly by 2030 because natural gas power plants are more efficient and produce less CO2 than plants using other fossil fuels. Forty-one percent of the natural gas produced in the U.S. in 2004 was from unconventional sources such as gas shales, coal-bed methane, onshore and offshore deep wells, and coal gasification (184). This portion is likely to increase due to demand and new technologies, and reduced natural gas imports. Installation of nuclear power plants is likely, along with new fossil fuel technologies (184). The EIA predicts that policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could raise electricity prices by as much as 25 percent, but also could slow energy-generated greenhouse gas emissions to a rate of 0.3 percent increase per year over the period from 2007 to 2030. New emission policies could also increase the role of non-hydro renewable electrical generation from 3 percent to as much as 18 percent of the total in 2030 (184).


Figure 17. World marketed energy use by fuel type, 1980-2030.

Globally, annual energy consumption is predicted to increase by 50 percent from 462 quadrillion Btu in 2005 to 695 quadrillion Btu in 2030 (48) (Figure 16). Fossil fuels will continue to provide much of this energy, especially liquid fuels (Figure 17). Oil prices are expected to rebound, but mandates will increase renewable fuel production and may keep oil prices lower than in 2008. Unconventional sources of liquid fuels (oil sands, biofuels, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids) will become increasingly competitive, especially if oil prices are high. Production of these fuels in 2030 may be four times that of 2005, 9.7 million barrels per day. Biofuels may account for nearly half of this new liquid fuel output (48).

Global coal consumption is expected to rise about two percent annually, from 123 quadrillion Btu in 2005 to 202 quadrillion Btu in 2030. Coal use in China will account for about 70 percent of this increase. If more stringent policies regarding greenhouse gas emissions are put into place, this rate could be reduced, but it is likely that new technologies for carbon capture and storage will allow for the continued use of coal. Older coal-fired plants are likely to be replaced by low-emission sources of electrical generation.

World natural gas consumption is predicted to rise from 104 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 158 trillion cubic feet in 2030. If fuel costs remain high, new nuclear plants are likely to be built, while older plants are likely to be taken off-line (48).

Due to governmental incentives, the production of renewable sources is expected to increase, even if they are less economical (48). An increase in hydropower development is expected, which will be a major contributing factor in the increase in renewable energy from 35 quadrillion Btu in 2005 to 59 quadrillion Btu in 2030.

World net electrical generation is predicted to double from 17.3 trillion kWh in 2005 to 33.3 trillion kWh in 2030. The highest rate of growth will occur in the developing countries. Without major changes in policies, the EIA predicts that CO2 emissions worldwide will increase 51 percent from 2005 to 2030 (48).

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