FEATURE: U.S. Sees World use soaring despite rising costs

By Abid Aslam

WASHINGTON DC, United States, June 26, 2008 – World energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions will grow by about 50 percent over the next two decades despite soaring oil prices as developing countries outpace rich ones in consumption, the U.S. government predicts.

”World marketed energy consumption is projected to increase by 57 percent from 2004 to 2030,” the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says in its International Energy Outlook 2008 report, released Wednesday.

Referring to the wealthy nations’ Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it adds that during the same period, ”total energy demand in the non-OECD countries increases by 95 percent, compared with an increase of 24 percent in the OECD countries.”

The report sees non-OECD countries’ share of world energy consumption rising from 47.9 percent in 2005 to 58.8 percent in 2030.

Oil and coal — both regarded as major culprits in global warming because of the carbon dioxide they spew into the atmosphere when burned — will continue to dominate global energy supply, says the U.S. Energy Department’s statistical wing.

As a consequence, and assuming no new measures are enacted to curb climate change, the annual amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide flowing from energy use will have ballooned by 51 percent between 2005 and 2030.

”Global energy demand grows despite the sustained high world oil prices that are projected to persist over the long term,” says the report. It sees the price of oil standing at somewhere between 113 dollars a barrel and 186 dollars a barrel.

While long-term prices are difficult to predict, it adds, current trends favour the higher projection of 183 dollars a barrel. Today’s price hovers around 137 dollars.

Regardless of the rising cost involved, the EIA says, growth in petroleum use will be driven by the transportation sector and electricity producers will rely heavily on coal.

Developing countries will account for much of the surging demand, with China and other economic dynamos expected to lead the way. The Asian powerhouse alone is likely to account for nearly three-fourths of an expected 2 percent annual increase in the global use of coal, the report says.

”With strong economic growth and continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels expected, much of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions is projected to occur among the developing nations of the world, especially in Asia,” says the EIA.

It sees demand for oil and other liquid fuels growing to nearly one-third more than today’s consumption, topping 113 million barrels a day by 2030. Crude oil will retain its 40 percent market share throughout thanks to stepped up production by members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel.

The EIA also expects alternative liquid fuels — including environmentally controversial oil shale and biofuels such as ethanol, which has been assailed as contributing to runaway food prices — to grow to supply nearly 10 percent of total liquid fuel consumption by 2030.

The United States is expected to account for nearly half the growth in global biofuels production. This is expected to rise from 1.3 million barrels a day in 2010 to 2.7 million barrels a day in 2030, with U.S. production increasing from 500,000 barrels a day to 1.2 million barrels a day in the same period.

Demand also will rise for natural gas and for liquefied natural gas, spurring production in the Middle East and Africa.

The EIA sees nuclear power leading growth in alternatives to fossil fuels. It anticipates that nuclear-generated electricity will grow by about one-third and that 124 new nuclear power plants will be built by 2030. Around 45 would be erected in China, with another 18 in Russia, 17 in India, and 15 in the United States, the agency predicts.

”Electricity generation from nuclear power is projected to increase from about 2.6 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2005 to 3.8 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2030, as concerns about rising fossil fuel prices, energy security, and greenhouse gas emissions support the development of new nuclear generation,” the report says.

It acknowledges possible impediments to nuclear power generation but insists the sector will expand regardless.

”Issues that could slow the expansion of nuclear power in the future include plant safety, radioactive waste disposal, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which continue to raise public concerns in many countries and may hinder the development of new nuclear power reactors,” it says. ”Moreover, high capital and maintenance costs may keep some nations from expanding their nuclear power programmes.”

Electricity generated by renewable energy sources will rise by about 2.1 percent a year. Most of this growth will stem not from sources favoured by conservationists — the sun, wind, or heat trapped under Earth’s surface — but from new mid- to large-sized dams in Asia and Latin America. (IPS)