Varun Sivaram

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The End of Energy as We Know It… In Three Graphs

by Blake Clayton
March 29, 2013


Want to understand the energy challenges the world might face in the future? There are few better places to turn than this year’s BP Energy Outlook to 2030, an annual publication that shows the company’s projections for energy supply and demand over the next two decades. The three graphs below highlight some of the trends likely to define the energy landscape in the years ahead, in BP’s view.

Two decades from now, a world with more people and higher average incomes will mean more demand for energy. That shouldn’t be a surprise. What’s more striking is to see where all this growth will happen. In BP’s forecast, low and medium income economies outside the OECD will account for a full 90 percent of population growth between now and 2030, and their GDP will climb much higher. These same countries will also contribute to 90 percent of all the energy demand growth over that time, roaring ahead of the developed world.

In the developed world, energy consumption will barely tick up. Just 0.3 percent per year, in fact, until 2030. That would actually be a decline in per capita terms. Again, almost all of the growth in energy consumption is in non-OECD countries.

And where will the world get its energy? If BP is right, fossil fuels will still dominate the energy mix. Renewables will be the fastest growing sources of energy, but given the relatively tiny piece of the pie they make up today, they’ll still be far from dominant. No other energy sources will see the scale of consumption growth that coal and natural gas will, in absolute terms.

Demand for electricity will grow by leaps and bounds. China and India alone will account for a huge part of that new power consumption. The OECD will only see a little growth in that area, relatively speaking, for all its economic clout.

The developed world will actually use less energy for transportation than it does now. Again, low and middle income countries will be at the very center of the picture when it comes to growing appetite for energy over the next two decades.

There will undoubtedly be surprises between now and 2030. If the last decade has taught us anything about energy, it’s that old truths can change suddenly. Given the complexities involved and all the variables that could change between now and then—whether in terms of technology, public policy, or prices—no long-term energy forecast will turn out to be right on the money. But sources like this Outlook are a great way to get a sense for what smart people in the energy industry see as they try to look ahead.

Post a Comment 16 Comments

  • Posted by R. L. Hails Sr. P. E.

    To the great unwashed, OECD means the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (the developed nations). Once it was good authorship to define jargon upon first usage.

    Note that the energy usage projection by fuel reveals that perhaps 80% of mankind’s energy is, and will be, dominated by the combustion of carbon, or the fission of uranium. In America, both have been the targets of powerful political opposition for decades. China brings a new coal plant on line every few days; America stopped in the mid 1970s. The inescapable result is that the list of developed nations must change, due to a pogrom on energy production. Without cheap, plentiful energy, all development collapses. America’s de facto energy policy is to rely on hot air, by politicians. It is suicidal.

    (I engineered a score of nukes, two score fossil fueled power plants, and spent decades assessing advanced technologies.)

  • Posted by Paul Natsuo Kishimoto

    With all due respect, Mr. Hails, when one considers the expected impacts of continued climate change, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that to choose to increase carbon emissions is literally—not figuratively—homicidal.

  • Posted by R. L. Hails Sr. P. E.

    Paul Natsuo Kishimoto

    You are correct. Either way. For billions of people.

  • Posted by Shane

    Paul and Mr. Hails. This is the heart of the energy debate. What are we to do as a country? If we rely on the so called green energy, we will become a third world country while the likes of China, India and Brasil roar ahead putting tons of co2 in the atmosphere. Global climate change will not stop with the US destroying its economy by embracing “green” energy. But what the hell is wrong with Nuclear?! The greens will not embrace it properly and crazies like Japan and Germany are trying to phase it out while ironically enough FRANCE continues benefitting from it with relative energy independence and limiting CO2! I am from the Northwest US where many Nuclear power plants were planned. Three were started and ONE was finished and continues today. We should have a lot more nuclear than we do in this country. In that same region Hydro is KING! It is good they built those dams when they did because the Green crazies would never let another one be built. In fact they want to take them down!!! The cleanest most efficient way to create electricity (Hydro) is never even considered!! The north west has very low energy rates because of hydro! Hydro and nuclear should be the near term future with fusion the ultimate end goal. Fossil fuel companies should be taxed a little higher with that money going into R&D for Hydro and nuclear or let them invest that same money into their own company to develop Hydro and Nuclear. Instead the fossil fuel companies have a target on their back and the feds are trying to destroy them. Meanwhile the federal government pours billions into failed green ventures! So what are we to do!!! What Have we done!!! Create policies that tie our hands so we can do only one thing; nothing! And so the US will decline in wealth and technology and ability to be a part of the solution, global climate change will go on unabated, and all the woes of the world will be blamed on the US and its do nothing policies. If I were president, I would create a comity of private citizens who are retired experts in their respective fields (geology, nuclear, hydro, finance, etc.) who are unpaid but commissioned to do the greatest service for their country next to going to war, make a real energy plan for the future. Creating a master map of locations for as many Hydro and nuclear plants. The Feds would stop targeting the fossil fuels industry and create a way for them to put their capital into the hydro and nuclear game creating an economic incentive to have these facilities built with private investment. Their is a legion of retired individuals who would make to their life’s work to create this plan and do it for free! But no one asks them! Instead we rely on government bureaucrats who have their own agenda to get things, or more correctly, NOT get things done! I want to be optimistic but I think we are screwed! I can only expect more of the same from our government and the crazy greens who are created in the government’s education system. That’s my two cents.

  • Posted by Dean Drake

    The primary message in these charts is this: once the major source of greenhouse gases, developed countries no longer have the fate of the planet in their hands. Most developed countries (including the U.S.) have successfully stabilized their greenhouse gas emissions and projections show those emissions declining into the future. Even if the U.S. would suddenly stop emitting greenhouse gases, this would be overcome by increased emissions from the developing world within five years. Facing increasing population and expectations, developing countries are not likely trust their future on windmills and solar cells to provide them with the energy they need to industrialize and raise their standard of living sufficiently to avoid starvation. So before pontificating about global warming and homicide, it is worth looking at the population figures in the first graph and seriously ask: without hydrocarbon energy, how are all these people to be fed and clothed?

  • Posted by Eric

    I agree that if you look at the most moderate future estimates of climate change and look at these graphs they collide against each other. The amount of money we’ll be putting into climate mitigation in the future will likely mean we’ll have to switch to different energy sources other than oil, and coal whether we like it or not. Additionally I remember looking at graphs like this from the department of energy under the Bush administration around 2003ish, and they also estimated more oil and coal usage in the U.S. by around 2013ish not less which is what we see happening today. Soooo I always take these projection with a grain of salt.

  • Posted by Deep Space

    “To the great unwashed…” Aww, its Sunday morning do I have to take a shower? What an arrogant comment on your part Mr. Hails.

  • Posted by Ian Dubin

    China has more than two dozen nuclear power plants in the development pipeline. Anyone who has tried to breath in Beijing in recent years will understand why.

    Renewables are not a solution – as is being shown in Ontario, Denmark, Germany and elsewhere they are part of the problem. I take BPs projections with a large grain of salt – not the demand side – but the supply side.

  • Posted by joe blowe

    To deem CO2 a pollutant was the greatest achievement of the Communist/Socialist/Liberal/Progressive, etc. They have been itching to gain control of energy – they almost got it.
    Global Warming is not true. Not from

  • Posted by joe blowe

    To deem CO2 a pollutant was the greatest achievement of the Communist/Socialist/Liberal/Progressive, etc. They have been itching to gain control of energy – they almost got it.
    Global Warming is not true. Not from man made co2, or anything else for that matter. The discussion should have been halted once the ‘hockey stick curve’ was shown to be a fraud.
    How many more climategates do we need ?

  • Posted by Cliff Claven

    The title of the article is at odds with the data; it appears the predicted future of energy looks very much like the present, with fossil fuels still carrying the preponderance of the burden. It is the customers, not the types of primary energy that are shifting. If fossil fuel energy subsidies to “renewables” are subtracted, these alternative energy sources end up not being sources at all, with marginally positive to grossly negative energy balances. Biofuels are particular offenders in this regard. BTW, no system can be truly “renewable” unless all its components and inputs are renewable. If ammonia fertilizers from fossil fuel natural gas are cut off, all liquid biofuels from cultivated feedstock immediately collapse (as does our modern food industry). If industrial energy from coal and oil and gas and nuclear power are cut off, no one will be mining the iron or bauxite or silica or rare earths, or smelting the steel or aluminum or glass, or crushing the rock for aggregate, or kilning the lime for cement, or erecting the solar farms or wind turbines for “renewable” energy. Until solar and wind farms produce enough energy at a scale and pace to recapitalize themselves within their own lifespans, as well as produce competitively priced excess energy, they are energy and cash sinkholes. Such is the current reality.

  • Posted by Doug Proctor

    These graphs show that the non-OCED countries are the “danger” of the future wrt CO2. While the noble thing might be to reduce fossil fuel emissions in the developed countries, the graphs show that without non-OCED buy-in, the net gain for the world for the West to cripple itself is minor.

    It is not the switch to non-fossil fuels that is so distressing, really, it is that we are crippling the fossil fuel based way of life without a replacement. All the money that is said to be going for green energy is not going there: there is no mechanism or requirement for the new taxes to achieve anything. The taxes are going to fund regular government spending, including the large military adventurism going on.

    The graphs show that there is no intent outside of the middle-class white world to rein in cheap energy use and, in doing so, reduce the CO2-induced buildup. The majority of the planet’s population consider the benefit to be greater than the cost, which is ironic, for the WWF/Gore/Sierra Club/Suzuki activists say that the problems with climate changes by CO2 are primarily going to happen to the developing world.

    What is it called when a group seeks to “help” others who do not wish to be helped? Evangilizing comes to mind. Recall how well that works (like bringing democracy to the non-democratic).

  • Posted by Murgatroyd

    Joe bloewe is the only one who can see that the emporer has no clothes.

    CO2 – or carbon emissions to the great unwashed – is essential for photosynthesis, comprises .039% of the atmosphere and lags the effects of temperature – which, by the way, is more dependent on the sun.

  • Posted by Dan McLuskey

    Mr Kishimoto, in the approx four thousand million years of earth’s history, there has not been one recorded year when the earth’s climate has not been changing.

    Climate change is natural, and normal.

    We are not at the hottest temperature regime in the present inter-glacial (the Holocene) That condition occurred about 5,000 years ago.

    The IPCC says itself that there is no trend in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events.

    Most of the statements made by climate scientists include the terms “may”, or “could”, both of which mean that the person takes no responsibility for the statement made – that is, it is worthless.

    Look for the statements which include the terms “will”, “shall” “is to”, and you know that you can count on these. But in fact you will find almost nil of these.

    Almost all statements relate to the term “in the scientific record”, which means since satellites were launched.

    Almost every record made before this is discounted. However, when these records are revealed, and republished, what is found, for example, is that in 1934, an expedition to Greenland recorded loss rates of the glaciers which were far greater than today. An expedition to the arctic to investigate ice cover in 1922 found that most of the ice had disappeared. in 1908, the explorer Amundsen navigated the North West Passage in a small wooden boat. These events are truly part of the scientific record.

    Since the end of the last ice age, the surface of planet earth has been warming, in fits and starts, the ice coverage has been melting, in fits and starts. Satellite imagery shows that the earth is getting greener.

    When I studied geology, in about 1968, we were taught that the next ice age was coming – the temperature had been falling for about the last 40 years. I still have the text book. At about the same time, Hansen, now head of NASA GISS testified before congress that the next ice age was upon us.

    Measurements from the Argo bouy system show that the sea surface temperature is pretty steady; measurements from the Jason satellite shows that mean sea level is steadily rising at pretty much the historical rate.

    The Australian Climate Change Commissioner, Prof Tim Flannery, is on record as saying that if all forms of CO2 emissions were stopped, totally, today, it might take 1,000 years until the effect was noticeable.

    Of all of the dire predictions made by the climate change proponents, and global warming alarmists, not one has come to pass. We were suposed to have had 50 million climate refugees by 5 years ago due to sea level rise. Score to date? Nil.

    Etc, etc.

    Don’t worry. Do not be afraid.

  • Posted by Bob Armstrong

    These predictions look little different that XOM’s a decade ago .

    Fortunately we can look forward to a greener world and higher crop yields by the anti-science statists failure to suppress the continued restoration from previous lush epochs of the building block of life to the 21st century biosphere .

  • Posted by Mike Mellor

    Posted by Paul Natsuo Kishimoto March 30, 2013 at 1:56 am

    With all due respect, Mr. Hails, when one considers the expected impacts of continued climate change, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that to choose to increase carbon emissions is literally—not figuratively—homicidal.

    Posted by R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. March 30, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Paul Natsuo Kishimoto

    You are correct. Either way. For billions of people.

    Homicidal? For billions of people? Would anyone like to produce some evidence for this absurd claim?

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