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CO2 to Stay Below 2005 Levels, U.S. to Wean Itself from Foreign Oil, EIA Predicts

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will remain below 2005 levels through 2035 as increased oil, natural gas and renewable energy production reduces U.S. reliance on imported energy sources, according to projections by the Energy Information Administration.

The Annual Energy Outlook 2012 reference case shows energy-related CO2 emissions growing by 3 percent from 2010 to 2035, reaching 5,806 million metric tons in 2035. Emissions per capita fall by an average of 1 percent per year from 2005 to 2035, as growth in demand for transportation fuels is moderated by higher energy prices and federal fuel economy standards.

Meanwhile, electricity-related emissions are tempered by appliance and lighting efficiency standards, state renewable standards, competitive natural gas prices and implementation of the Cross-state Air Pollution Rule. Total U.S. primary energy consumption, which was 101.4 quadrillion Btu in 2007, grows from 98.2 quadrillion Btu in 2010 to 108.0 quadrillion Btu in 2035.

The reference case presents updated projections for U.S. energy markets through 2035, and includes only the effects of policies that have been implemented in law or final regulations. The full AEO2012 report, including projections with differing assumptions on the price of oil, the rate of economic growth, and the characteristics of new technologies, will be released in late spring, along with regional projections.

The EIA said that proposed fuel economy standards covering model years 2017 through 2025, not included in the reference case, would further reduce projected energy use and emissions.

The Washington Post said that the reference case projections represent a break from historical trends on carbon emissions. But, the paper said, emissions are still rising – putting the White House far off its Copenhagen pledge to reduce CO2 output 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The EIA also projected that U.S. production of natural gas will exceed consumption early in the next decade. The United States is projected to become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas in 2016, a net pipeline exporter in 2025, and an overall net exporter of natural gas in 2021

But the projections show U.S. shale gas deposits to be smaller than once thought, the Washington Post reports. Last year the EIA estimated that the Marcellus Shale had 410 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, enough to supply U.S. gas needs for about 20 years. Now it has slashed that prediction by almost two-thirds, to 141 trillion cubic feet.

The natural gas share of electric power generation is projected to rise from 24 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2035, and the renewables share grows from 10 percent to 16 percent over the same period, while coal share falls to 39 percent, well below the 49-percent share seen in 2007.

Net petroleum imports as a share of total U.S. liquid fuels consumed drop in the reference case from 49 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2020 and 36 percent in 2035, primarily because of growth in domestic oil production of over 1 million barrels per day by 2020, an increase in biofuel use of over 1 million barrels per day crude oil equivalent by 2024, and limited growth in transportation sector demand through 2035. World crude oil prices rise by 2035 to an average of $146 per barrel in 2010 dollars.

Domestic crude oil production is expected to grow by more than 20 percent over the coming decade, to 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020.

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