Thursday, June 09, 2011

Carbon future

‘Schumpeter’ in The Economist has a sobering overview of trends and forecasts for world energy. Here are some of the key points:
* Robust growth was seen in all regions and in almost all types of energy use: the world consumed more of every main fuel bar one [that is, nuclear] than it had in any previous year. Consumption of oil, which accounts for 34% of the world’s primary energy by BP’s calculations, rose by 3.1%. Coal, at 30% the number two fuel, was up by 7.6%, growing faster than at any time since 2003. Consumption of gas, which contributes 24%, was up by 7.4%, the biggest annual growth since 1984.

* The growth in fossil fuels was so strong that although non-fossil-fuel energy also had a record year, its share of the world total primary energy decreased a little. Hydro (6.5%) saw its biggest annual increase on record, in part due to more dams and in part due to a lot of rain; Christof Rühl, BP’s chief economist, notes there was more precipitation in 2010 than in any year in the past century...Most of China’s growth came from burning more coal: in 2000 China accounted for just under a third of world coal use; in 2010 a staggering 48.2%. Repeat that sort of expansion on a smaller scale for a number of other countries and you see why coal is going up in the global mix. You also see why the world’s energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions have grown even faster than its energy use—by 5.8% last year, on BP’s figures. That is the fastest growth since 1969...

* The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook [forecasts] a new “golden age of gas” scenario for future energy production and consumption. This sees global gas demand rising by more than 50% over the next 25 years, as gas outstrips coal to come close to equalling oil in the energy mix. Meeting that demand would require an increase in production equivalent to three times the amount of gas produced by Russia today, which the agency imagines being handily met by a mixture of conventional gas and shale gas, as well as some other unconventional forms of the fuel such as coal-bed methane. China becomes both a principal producer (its shale-gas resources are reckoned the largest in the world) and perhaps the largest importer. But all this does not do anything like as much as you might expect in terms of reducing carbon emissions. This is because cheap gas does not just displace dirty coal, as it has been doing in America; it also displaces expensive renewables and nuclear...
A view from Michael Klare here.

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