Slide 6 illustrates the difficulty of dramatically changing the energy use picture.
Just as an aircraft carrier can’t be turned on a dime, neither can the enormous energy-consuming engine that is our economy. For the last several years, the U.S. has consumed 100 quadrillion Btus of energy in various forms. That’s a lot of energy. Every year, the population grows (about 0.9% a year) and we get a little bit more efficient and productive with our energy consumption (see Slide 7, below), roughly to offset the increased energy needs of those 3 million or so warm bodies.
Out of 100 “quads”, 85 are “fossil fuels” – petroleum, natural gas and coal. Nuclear energy accounts for about 8 quads, so currently 7 quads is made up of “renewables” – hydropower, geothermal energy, biomass, wind and solar. For practical (and political and environmental) reasons, nobody expects much growth in hydro or geothermal (less and except Al Gore, who somehow got the idea that the temperature of the earth’s core is “several million degrees” – but I digress).
Thus, the conclusion of this Outlook, at least in the Reference Case, is that reliance on fossil fuels declines from 85% to 78% over the next 25 years. And the size of the overall pie is growing in that time frame, to 115 quads, so that all of the conventional sources of energy actually grow. A few extra quads of renewables actually get us to 115 quads total. More on renewables in the coming slides.