America, the rest of the Developed World and the Developing Countries of the World all depend on Fossil Fuels to power Industry, Quality of Life, Transportation and strong Economy’s. In fact more than 85% of the energy used today is used in “Heat-Engines”. Think about your life today and what you depend on. A car for transportation, air conditioning for summer comfort, Industrial production to provide jobs, economic strength and to continue to fuel our strong Economy, fuel for jet aircraft to shrink the world, Diesel fuel for trucks to deliver our food, Diesel fuel for shipping to transport products around the world. The largest slice of the energy production pie is provided by petroleum. Love them or hate them, the energy density of fossil fuels make them important to power our lives.
In America we use about 20 million barrels of oil each day. America has about 275 million cars and light trucks on the roads. This is peak vacation time in America, summer travel is brisk of people getting away to our favorite beach, mountain retreat or foreign destination. When we travel, we use energy. A lot of it.
Some prominent Americans, the Main Stream Media, the President and elected officials in high office are promoting “Net Zero Carbon by 2050”.
In my opinion, this is wrong for America and impossible to achieve. I will attempt to simplify my reasoning of why fossil fuels are important and the fact that we cannot eliminate them in the next 30 years unless there are major new break-throughs in technology.
Where We Get Our Energy
Each year, America uses about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has kept track of our actual energy sources and consumption for decades. Each year a report is produced to show the previous years energy production and use. Since about the year 2006 America has used between 95 and 103 Quadrillion Btu’s each year. Here below are two charts which show the sources and uses for energy in the U.S.A. during 2020. Note that due to the Pandemic, energy use declined from 2019 to only about 98 Quadrillion Btu’s. This was due to reduced travel and economic production during 2020, because of Covid-19. Chart 1 below shows the sources of our energy and the consumption. Note that the optimistic Renewables in 2050 is about 17 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent. The EIA converts energy from hydroelectric, solar and wind to equivalent energy in Btu’s. Each Btu is equivalent at 100% efficiency of conversion to 778 Foot Pounds of work. Thus, the BTU’s produced and used represent all forms of energy on the charts below.
Sources in 2050 of our energy. Forecast based on the EIA analyses.
- 38 Quadrillion Btu’s Petroleum
- 37 Quadrillion Btu’s Natural Gas
- 17 Quadrillionn Btu’s Renewable Energy
- 7 Quadrillion Btu’s Nuclear energy
- 3 Quadrillion Btu’s Hydro-electric
- 3 Quadrillion Btu’s Biofuels
Total 105 Quadrillion Btu’s projected to be utilized in 2050 (5)
In my opinion, that number is low because our population is growing and I suspect that in order to provide the same quality of life in 2050 as we enjoy now, with a population expected to grow to 390(6) million in 2050, will require more than 105 Quadrillion Btu’s if we continue our high quality of lives.
Let’s discuss Electric Vehicles. Today there are about 276 million cars and light trucks on the road (7). Most are fueled by gasoline or diesel fuel which is provided by over 100,000 conveniently located service stations for refueling. If these are switched to being powered by electric, then the electric power demand will be much larger than 37% of our total energy production.
The electricity production chart below shows current and future trends for electricity production. If the auto manufacturers stop producing cars powered by internal combustion engines, then to preserve our current freedom to travel, the same total energy will be required for a given prosperous population. Thus, driving similar miles per year will require that electricity be produced in proportion to the fleet of EV’s. Study the chart below. In 2050 the projections are for 42% of our electricity to be generated from Renewables. The other 58% then is projected to be generated from traditional sources, natural gas, nuclear and coal. We should keep in mind that the population is expected to increase by about 18% by 2050.
If we continue our high quality of living, then Fossil Fuels will be required through 2050. Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 will be difficult or impossible to achieve, in my opinion.
Richard F. Storm
July 31, 2021
- Dick Storm’s ProBizBlog: https://dickstormprobizblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/28/the-importance-of-energy-part-2-our-energy-sources/
- Donn Dears “Power for the USA” Blog: https://ddears.com/2021/04/20/america-we-have-a-problem-the-green-nightmare-part-1-the-nuclear-problem/
- Mark Mills, Manhatten Institute, “The Green New Deal Can’t Break the Laws of Physics” : https://www.manhattan-institute.org/green-new-deal-laws-of-physics
- U.S. Department of Energy, EIA (Energy Information Administration) Annual Energy Outlook, 2021: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/
- U.S. Census Data of population projections into the future: https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2017/demo/popproj/2017-summary-tables.html
- Number of cars and light trucks registered in the U.S.A. by Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/183505/number-of-vehicles-in-the-united-states-since-1990/
- The German Experience with Renewables by Michael Schellenberger July 2021: https://michaelshellenberger.substack.com/p/german-emissions-from-electricity-674?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjozNTA0MDMyMSwicG9zdF9pZCI6MzkzMjEwODMsIl8iOiJleWpPVSIsImlhdCI6MTYyNzcyNjM5NywiZXhwIjoxNjI3NzI5OTk3LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMjc5NDAwIiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.e-R9JLkkOf0AoO-vTujt5twuRqVqIdPKOz-X9f0Fvko