The U.S. Energy Information Administration is projecting a 48% increase in global energy consumption and nearly a 34% increase in carbon emissions from 2012 to 2040, but admits its modelling leaves out the final version of the U.S. Clean Power Plan and many of the national commitments announced during the 2015 United Nations climate summit in Paris.
And that’s just as well, suggests Bloomberg analyst Liam Denning, since it would take a new source of oil on the scale of Saudi Arabia to supply the 121 million barrels per day of global demand the EIA projects for 2040.
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“Any number of reasons can be put forward as to why that number may be close to or way wide of the mark. Rising population and incomes, especially in the developing world, are the main arguments in favour,” Denning writes. “But another question raised by that figure of 121 million barrels a day is: Where will the oil come from? Even over a span of 28 years, raising global oil production by 31 million barrels a day is no mean feat.”
The EIA sees fossil fuels accounting for more than three-quarters of global energy use in 2040. Natural gas emerges as the fastest-growing fossil fuel, driven by “rising supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane.”
Although coal is the slowest-growing energy source in the EIA’s assessment, it still increases 0.7% per year through 2040, with China, the U.S., and India accounting for more than 70% of global consumption. “Coal use in India continues to rise and surpasses U.S. coal consumption after 2030,” the agency projects.
The EIA also expects benchmark Brent crude oil prices of about US$76 per barrel by the end of next year, Reuters reports.
But although news reports on the EIA release focused on the outlandish top-line numbers in the projection, the agency acknowledges that it left out at least two of the biggest potential drivers of demand and emission reductions—just because the news broke too late to be included in the modelling.
“Much of the analysis conducted for the [International Energy Outlook 2016] was done before the release of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan,” the EIA writes, so the reference case “does not include the potential effects of the CPP regulations in the United States.”
The much bigger gap was EIA’s limited ability to factor in national emission reduction goals that formed the basis for the Paris Agreement. “EIA has tried to incorporate some of the specific details, such as renewable energy goals,” the agency notes. “However, a great deal of uncertainty remains with regard to the implementation of policies to meet stated goals,” as well as national measures to address key climate issues like methane releases and deforestation.
Those activities “could have significant effects on national or regional shares of total global GHG emissions,” and “EIA’s projections for CO2 emissions may change significantly as laws and policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions are implemented and enforced, or if existing laws are enhanced.”
Earlier this month, a United Nations summary of climate commitments leading into the Paris conference concluded that global greenhouse gas emissions will grow 16% from 2010 to 2030, compared to 24% from 1990 to 2010, ClimateHome reports. The summary projects a 4% reduction in global per capita emissions from 2010 levels by 2025.
“The 161 climate plans (counting the EU-28 as one bloc) barely make a dent in efforts to avoid the 2°C global warming danger zone,” ClimateHome reports. “Factor in the aspirational target at the COP21 Paris summit to avoid warming of 1.5°C, and the so-called ‘ambition gap’ looks even tougher to meet.”