Guess What? Tomorrow’s Energy Will Be The Same As Yesterday’s Energy

  • Date: 06/04/13
  • Mark Perry, AEIdeas

The scientific and economic realities suggest that the “fuels of the future” will mostly be the same as the “fuels of the past” — dependable and low-cost oil, natural gas, and coal.


The chart above shows Department of Energy forecasts for the shares that various fuel sources will provide of our total energy consumption out to the year 2040. Even 27 years from now in the year 2040, the government estimates that we’ll still be relying on fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) for slightly more than 80% of our energy needs, which is only slightly less than the 84.3% fossil fuel share today (see red line in chart). And even with advances in green technologies and the likely billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies targeted for renewable energy in the coming years, those fuels are predicted to supply less than 11% of our energy needs in 2040.  If we take out hydropower as an energy source, the rest of the most popular green renewables (solar, wind and biofuels) will only supply slightly more than 8% of our energy 27 years from now. In other words, more than a quarter century from now in the year 2040, our energy sources will be pretty much exactly like they are today – fossils fuels will continue to supply more than 80% of our energy needs, and renewable energy sources will remain relatively insignificant.

In today’s Washington Examiner, Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute reminds us that President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union speech referred to oil as “yesterday’s energy” and expressed his intention to spend more federal tax of your taxpayer dollars on “clean energy technologies” – supposedly “tomorrow’s energy.” And yet Obama’s own Department of Energy paints a much different energy future for America than Obama’s outlook – it’s an energy future that looks very much like today –  with fossil fuels supplying the large majority of our energy, and renewables playing a relatively minor role. Here’s how Robert Bryce explains America’s energy situation:

No other substance comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, and flexibility. Those properties explain why oil provides more energy to the global economy — about 33 percent — than any other fuel. …

Those facts haven’t stopped Obama, or his political appointees, or leading environmentalists from demonizing oil at every opportunity.

Cheap, abundant, reliable energy supplies are essential for economic development. Despite many decades of dire predictions of energy shortages, along with the calamity and economic problems that would come from such shortages, the world continues to increase production of hydrocarbons.

Those increases are a direct result of continuing innovation in the drilling sector, and those innovations provide plenty of reason to assume that oil and natural gas will remain dominant players in the global energy market for decades to come.

MP: The reality is that our economy will continue to rely overwhelmingly on traditional fossil fuel energy sources in the 21st century as Robert Bryce suggests in today’s Washington Examiner. Obama might wish for a future dominated by alternative energies, but the scientific and economic realities suggest that the “fuels of the future” will mostly be the same as the “fuels of the past” — dependable and low-cost oil, natural gas, and coal.

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