President Obama has religiously promoted renewable energy sources, and said during his 2012 campaign that “We’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.” By “investments” Obama means massive “taxpayer-funded subsidies” for wind, solar, and biofuels. At the same time, Obama has frequently dismissed fossil fuels as “energy sources of the past.” But according to new projections released today by Obama’s own Department of Energy, the reality is much different — fossil fuels will continue be America’s dominant energy source for the next quarter century and beyond, while renewables, even with continued taxpayer life support, will continue to play a relatively minor role as an energy source for the US.
Here’s what the Department of Energy reported on its website last July about the “predominance” of fossil fuels far into America’s future:
While the overall energy history of the United States is one of significant change as new forms of energy were developed, the three major fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal, which together provided 87% of total U.S. primary energy over the past decade—have dominated the U.S. fuel mix for well over 100 years. Recent increases in the domestic production of petroleum liquids and natural gas have prompted shifts between the uses of fossil fuels (largely from coal-fired to natural gas-fired power generation), but the predominance of these three energy sources is likely to continue into the future.
Today, the Department of Energy released the early version of its Annual Energy Outlook 2014, with the following commentary about the ongoing surge in the production of America’s oil and gas, thanks to advanced drilling and extraction technologies:
Growing domestic production of natural gas and crude oil continues to reshape the U.S. energy economy, with crude oil production approaching the historical high achieved in 1970 of 9.6 million barrels per day.
Ongoing improvements in advanced technologies for crude oil and natural gas production continue to lift domestic supply and reshape the U.S. energy economy. Domestic production of crude oil (including lease condensate) increases sharply in the AEO2014 Reference case, with annual growth averaging 0.8 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) through 2016, when it totals 9.5 MMbbl/d. While domestic crude oil production is expected to level off and then slowly decline after 2020, natural gas production grows steadily, with a 56% increase between 2012 and 2040, when production reaches 37.6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf).
MP: Based on the new data and projections released today by the Department of Energy, the chart above illustrates the importance of fossil fuels to America as an energy source — in the past, today, and in the future. Over almost a one-hundred year period from 1949 to 2040, fossil fuels have provided, and will continue to provide, the vast majority of America’s energy by far. This year, fossil fuels are expected to provide almost 84% of America’s energy, which is nearly unchanged from the 85% fossil fuel energy share twenty years ago in the early 1990s. Looking forward, even more than a quarter of a century from now in 2040, the Department of Energy forecasts that fossil fuels will still be the nation’s dominant energy source, providing more than 81% of our energy needs (see chart). So, despite President Obama’s dismissal of fossil fuels as “energy sources of the past,” the Department of Energy’s own forecasts tell a much different story of an energy future where fossil fuels serve as the dominant energy source to power our vehicles, heat and light our homes, factories and office buildings, and fuel the US economy.
Also shown in the chart above are the shares of total energy consumption provided by nuclear and hydropower combined. Those two sources of energy are expected to provide just under 11% of total energy demand this year, and the energy share for those two sources has been remarkably stable for more than twenty years, and is expected to remain stable at about 11% for the next quarter century through 2040 (see chart).
What about President Obama’s claim that we should “invest” in “energy sources of the future” — renewables like solar, biofuels, and wind — instead of focusing on oil. Again, the Department of Energy’s forecasts tell a much different story about America’s energy future. Even after “investing” billions of taxpayer dollars subsidies in renewable energy sources (solar, wind and biomass) already, those three sources will provide only 5.5% of America’s energy this year, which won’t be much greater than the 4% renewable share 25 years ago in 1988 — that’s not a lot of progress for the politically-popular, taxypayer-subsidized renewables (see chart). When it comes to solar and wind, those two politically favored energy sources are expected to provide only 2.34% of America’s energy this year — an almost insignificant amount. Even in 2040, more than a quarter century from now, solar and wind together will account for less than 3.7% of America’s energy consumption, according to today’s Department of Energy forecasts.
Bottom Line: According to Obama’s own Energy Department, the reality is that abundant, low-cost fossil fuels will continue to dominate the US energy mix for at least the next quarter century, and probably much longer into the future. Meanwhile, politics aside, the economic and scientific reality according to the Energy Department is that renewable sources of energy will continue to play a minor role in America’s energy mix. In 2040, the Energy Department’s projected 10.4% share for all renewables (including hydropower) will be almost inconsequentially different from the 9.3% share of all renewables back in 1949. In other words, the Energy Department’s not expecting a lot of progress for renewable energies as a fuel source for America, even after almost 100 years of efforts from politicians like Obama and billions of taxpayer dollars to promote alternative sources of energy that aren’t viable without massive amounts of taxpayer life support.