Energy | Ecotrope

Energy Outlook: Your Carbon Emissions Will Fall (A Wee Bit)

Ecotrope | Jan. 23, 2012 2:40 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:33 p.m.

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The Energy Information Administration projects a plateau in overal U.S. CO2 emissions through 2035, including an estimate that emissions will decline 1 percent per capita. They could decline even more with new fuel efficiency standards launching in 2017.

The Energy Information Administration projects a plateau in overal U.S. CO2 emissions through 2035, including an estimate that emissions will decline 1 percent per capita. They could decline even more with new fuel efficiency standards launching in 2017.

This morning, the EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht presented an outlook for U.S. energy markets through 2035.

One of the biggest changes from last year’s annual report, Gruenspecht said, “We do have more retirements of existing coal plants.”

The EIA also foresees a plateau in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Overall emissions are expected to remain below their 2005 levels through 2035, while per capita emissions – that’s you and me – fall by an average of 1 percent per year.  They could fall even further after tighter fuel efficiency standards kick in, Gruenspecht said.

Contributing to the decline in energy-related carbon emissions, the EIA concluded: Higher energy prices, federal fuel economy standards, appliance and lighting efficiency standards, renewable energy requirements in around 30 states, low natural gas prices that detract from coal use and and new air pollution regulations.

Other highlights from the outlook include projections for the U.S. to become a net natural gas exporter (With LNG from Oregon? The EIA’s crystal ball doesn’t tell us that part), more oil, biofuel and biomass production, more energy efficiency, less power from coal and more from natural gas and renewable sources. Here’s a summary: 

  • The share of electricity coming from coal is projected to shrink between now and 2035 while natural gas and renewables grow. Environmental regulations and competition from cheaper natural gas are both expected to contribute to the decline in coal-fired power, according to the Energy Information Administration.

    The share of electricity coming from coal is projected to shrink between now and 2035 while natural gas and renewables grow. Environmental regulations and competition from cheaper natural gas are both expected to contribute to the decline in coal-fired power, according to the Energy Information Administration.

  • Net natural gas exports: The U.S. will become a net exporter of natural gas by 2021, but is only expected to export “one plant’s worth” of liquefied natural gas by 2035, according to Gruenspecht.

  • More oil production: The U.S. will produce 20 percent more crude oil by 2020 from “tight oil” sources such as oil extracted from shale rock, and from offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Less dependence on foreign oil: Dependence on foreign oil will drop as a result of better fuel efficiency and domestic fuel production – including biofuel. Net petroleum imports will drop from 49 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2020 and 36 percent in 2035. While biofuel production is expected to grow, it’s not projected to meet national targets.
  • More energy efficiency: There will be “a stark decline” in electricity demand – in large part because of energy efficiency improvements.
  • Less coal: The share of electricity coming from coal will drop from 45 percent to 39 percent as fewer new coal plants are built, some plants (including two in the Northwest) are retired, and the price of natural gas drops to make it more competitive with coal.
  • More natural gas and renewables: The share of electricity coming from natural gas is projected to grow from 24 percent to 27 percent, and renewable sources of electricity are projected to grow from 10 percent to 16 percent.
  • Four times the biomass: Within the non-hydropower renewable electricity sector, electricity from biomass is expected to grow nearly four fold. Part of the growth will be driven by state renewable portfolio standards, Gruenspecht said, and replacing lost power from coal plants will be another factor.
  • Wind energy grows, but…: Electricity from wind turbines is expected to nearly double, but its growth slows after federal production tax credits drop off at the end of this year.

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