Coal plant in Alma, Wisc.

Will the energy future look like the present; in this case, a coal plant in Alma, Wisconsin? Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

The federal government’s latest international energy projections are out, and there’s no question we’re living in a time of enormous change—and perhaps remarkably little progress.

The International Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration tries to identify the big trends and projections affecting the energy world through 2040. Some of the trends include:

  • The world is getting hungrier and hungrier for energy, but that’s mostly about China, India and the rest of the developing world. Energy consumption in countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (basically the industrialized world) is expected to go up 17 percent by 2040. Consumption in countries outside the OECD is projected to nearly double. (See related interactive map: The Global Electricity Mix.)
  • Renewable energy and nuclear power are projected to be the fastest-growing energy sources, increasing by 2.5 percent per year. Thanks to new sources opened by fracking, natural gas is projected to be the fastest-growing of the fossil fuels, and by 2040 half of all the natural gas produced in the U.S. will be shale gas.
  • Because of improving technology, the world will continue to get more efficient in energy use, and that will have an impact on greenhouse gases.

Yet for all that, the EIA projects the world’s overall energy mix won’t change much at all by 2040.

EIA_fossilfuels_072813_442Yes, renewables and nuclear are the fastest-growing sources. But overall, the percent of energy produced by fossil fuels will only drop from 84 percent today to 78 percent in 2040. Renewables only grow from 11 percent to 15 percent, and nuclear rises from 5 percent to 7 percent. Liquid fuels drop by 6 percent, largely because of rising prices. And despite all the debate about the decline of coal and rise of natural gas, the overall percentage of those two fuels barely changes at all. Given that picture, we still be pumping out plenty of greenhouse gases. EIA is predicting a 46 percent increase in global warming emissions during the study’s time frame.

There are important differences in what’s happening in developed nations versus emerging ones. For example, even though the EIA is projecting a small 1 percent drop in the share of coal used by 2040, it expects a dramatic increase in coal consumption between now and 2020, most of it coming from the developing countries that need cheap forms of energy to house and feed their growing populations and to industrialize.

Projections aren’t karmic. They depend on taking current trends and best estimates of what will happen if those trends continue. But it’s a fair question: if there’s so much activity around new energy sources, then why don’t the projections look different? Why don’t the changes have more traction?

The answer may lie in the fact that we haven’t, globally speaking, really reached consensus on the fundamentals: What kind of energy sources should we be using? What economic changes are we willing to make to back up those choices?  What are developed nations willing to do to help poorer countries improve their citizens’ lives without depending so heavily on fossil fuels? Those of us living in the developed world have already reaped the benefits of industrialization based on cheap coal. It’s not surprising that developing nations would be tempted to follow the same path—and harder for us to preach to nations that are still building their economies. (See related story: “Desert Storm: Battle Brews Over Obama Renewable Energy Plan.”)

The fact is that the changes we’re making on energy are working on the margins, and that’s why the long-term projections only show marginal shifts. If you want big shifts, you have to start making big changes—and that means persuading the public that those changes are worth making. (See related story: “Climate Change Impact on Energy: Five Proposed Safeguards.”)

Comments

  1. Kelfin Planck
    March 5, 8:26 am

    Mark Goldes’ “AESOP Institute” has engaged for many years in the very dishonest and unscrupulous practice of soliciting loans and donations under an endless series of false pretenses, that it is developing and even “prototyping” various “revolutionary breakthroughs,” such as “NO FUEL ENGINES” that run on ambient heat alone – or run on “Virtual Photon Flux” – or on “Collapsing Hydrogen Orbits” – or even on the acoustic energy of sound from a horn.

    AESOP Institute’s make-believe strictly ambient heat engine is ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This has been understood by physicists for at least 180 years. There is no “new science” that has ever determined such an engine to be possible.

    AESOP Institute’s make-believe “Virtual Photon Flux” engine is based on the idea that accessible electric power “is everywhere present in unlimited quantities” – which we know to be false.

    AESOP Institute’s make-believe “Collapsing Hydrogen Orbits” engine is based on Randell Mills’ theory of “hydrino” hydrogen, which every scientist knows to be false.

    AESOP Institute’s make-believe horn-powered engine is based on the pretense that a magnetized tuning rod could somehow “multiply energy” – a ludicrous notion, which is obviously ruled out by the law of conservation of energy.

    AESOP Institute’s very latest make-believe engine is a perpetual motion machine in the form of a self-powered air compressor, which proposes to use a turbine to compress air to spin the turbine to compress air to spin the turbine.

    AESOP Institute has never offered the slightest shadow of evidence that it is actually developing or “prototyping” any of these make-believe physics-defying “revolutionary breakthroughs.” All it has ever offered are mere declarations that it is doing so – unsupported by any proof whatever, of any kind whatever.

    There are no “revolutionary breakthroughs” to be found on Goldes’ fraudulent “AESOP Institute” website. There is only pseudoscience, relentless flimflam, and empty claims of engines that are ruled out by the laws of physics.

    http://physicsreviewboard.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/perpetual-flimflam-machine-mark-goldes-fraudulent-aesop-institute/

  2. Keyto Clearskies
    September 12, 2013, 9:31 pm

    Mark Goldes, starting in the mid-seventies, engaged for several years in the pretense that his company SunWind Ltd was developing a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-powered “windmobile,” based on the windmobile invented by James Amick; and that therefore SunWind would be a wonderful investment opportunity.

    After SunWind “dried up” in 1983, Goldes embarked on the long-running pretense that his company Room Temperature Superconductors Inc was developing room-temperature superconductors; and that therefore Room Temperature Superconductors Inc would be a wonderful investment opportunity. He continues the pretense that the company developed something useful, even to this day.

    And then Goldes embarked on the pretense that his company Magnetic Power Inc was developing “NO FUEL ENGINES” based on “Virtual Photon Flux;” and then, on the pretense that MPI was developing horn-powered “NO FUEL ENGINES” based on the resonance of magnetized tuning-rods; and then, on the pretense that his company Chava Energy was developing water-fueled engines based on “collapsing hydrogen orbitals;” and then, on the pretense that he was developing ambient-heat-powered “NO FUEL ENGINES.” Goldes has even claimed that Jacob T. Wainwright already patented an ambient-heat-powered engine 100 years ago – even though Wainwright himself certainly never made any such claim, at all. Wainwright’s only patent for a turbine or engine was not for any ambient-heat-powered engine, but for a pressurized-gaseous-fluid-powered engine. The innovation of the patent was the use of water to reduce speed – not for any use of ambient heat.

    Goldes’ forty-year career of “revolutionary invention” pretense has nothing to do with science, but only with pseudoscience and pseudophysics – his lifelong stock-in-trade.