Yves here. While this post focuses on a newly-released Department of Energy forecast, and forecasting is always a fraught exercise, there’s good reason to see it as realistic. It reflects the power of inertia and entrenched interests. If anything, you’d expect the DoE to present a hopeful outlook on the growth of eco-friendly power sources, given how often Obama talks about “green energy” and “green jobs,” but the authors appear to have steered clear of undue optimism.
What sort of fabulous new energy systems will the world possess in 2040? Which fuels will supply the bulk of our energy needs? And how will that change the global energy equation, international politics, and the planet’s health? If the experts at the U.S. Department of Energy are right, the startling “new” fuels of 2040 will be oil, coal, and natural gas — and we will find ourselves on a baking, painfully uncomfortable planet.
It’s true, of course, that any predictions about the fuel situation almost three decades from now aren’t likely to be reliable. All sorts of unexpected upheavals and disasters in the years ahead make long-range predictions inherently difficult. This has not, however, deterred the Department of Energy from producing a comprehensive portrait of the world’s future energy system. Known as the International Energy Outlook (IEO), the assessment incorporates detailed projections of future energy production and consumption. Although dense with statistical data and filled with technical jargon, the 2013 report provides a unique and disturbing picture of our planetary future.