US EIA projections of energy use and carbon emissions in 2050

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A coal-fired power plant in Jiayuguan, Gansu province, China.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Even with the current trend towards more renewable energy sources, global carbon emissions will increase until 2050, unless there are significant changes in policy or technology by then.

It is according to a new report released on Wednesday from US Energy Information Administration, a division of the US Federal Department of Energy that analyzes and shares data. For the report, the EIA projects future energy trends based on applicable laws and regulations. This assumption, and the resulting results, underscore the need for government changes and new technologies to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change.

“Even with the growth of renewables, without significant policy changes or technological breakthroughs, we forecast an increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions through 2050,” said Stephen Nalley, Acting Administrator of the EIA, in a written statement.

Assuming current trajectories, economic and population growth will lead to a 50% increase in global energy consumption between 2020 and 2050.

Renewable energies, such as wind and solar, will experience the strongest growth among energy sources until 2050, according to the report.

“The global push to generate more electricity from renewables and also to increase the reliability of the electricity grid could push for further expansion of battery storage globally,” Nalley said.

But even though renewables will experience the fastest growth, liquid fuels will remain the primary source of energy, mainly due to the transportation and industrial sectors. (Liquid fuels refer to all petroleum products, including crude oil and petroleum refining products, natural gas liquids, biofuels, and liquids derived from other hydrocarbon sources, including coal in liquids and gas in liquids. Here liquid fuels do not include liquefied natural gas and liquid hydrogen.)

The production of oil and natural gas will increase globally to meet the demand of developing economies in Asia.

“The fast growing economies of Asia could combine to become the largest importer of natural gas and crude oil by 2050, given their significant increase in energy use,” Nalley said.

Energy demand and consumption in non-OECD countries in Asia will be greater than what these countries are capable of producing. This will lead to increased imports of crude oil and finished petroleum products from the Middle East, according to the EIA.

Non-OECD countries in Asia will be the biggest importers of natural gas, according to the report, while Russia will be the biggest exporter of natural gas.

Also mentioned in the report, sales of electric vehicles are expected to increase through 2050, and the number of combustion engine cars is expected to peak in 2023 in OECD countries. Globally, the internal combustion engine market is expected to peak in 2038.


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