Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review
Petroleum, natural gas, and coal made up 81.5% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2015, their lowest share since surpassing hydropower more than a century ago. At their expense, non-hydro renewable energy consumption has expanded rapidly especially in the case of solar and wind, which have seen growth skyrocket the last few years.
On the other end of the spectrum, U.S. coal consumption fell 13% in 2015 on competition from natural gas and renewables, as well as regulation on pollution that forced older plants to retire. The decline is only matched by one in 2009, the start of the Great Recession, and another in 2012, when coal use fell 12% below the level in the previous year. Coal consumption is expected to continue its decline, especially if the Clean Power Plan survives.
The EIA’s Reference case projects petroleum consumption will remain stable through 2040 as fuel economy improvements and other changes offset growth in population and travel. The EIA projections are conservative by design so those “other changes” do not include the possibility of truly disruptive technological changes such as mass market adoption of electric and/or self-driving vehicles. Expect a substantially revised projection in 2025 by which time most major automotive companies would have had their affordable electric car models, costing around $30,000 after incentives programs, released for about 5 years.
Nuclear and hydroelectric are expected to remain relatively flat in growth through 2040.
According to the EIA, energy consumption in the U.S. should increase greatly by 2040 as shown below (again the assumptions used by the EIA are conservative and all trends show should be taken with a grain of salt). That said cheap natural gas and renewable energy are expected to eat into much of coal’s current role in electricity generation in any imagined scenario.
Any politician promising a preservation or return of coal industry jobs is either ignorant of economic reality or stupid enough to lie and think it won’t backfire.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Annual Energy Outlook 2016
Source: EIA, International Energy Outlook 2016, International Energy Statistics, and Oxford Economics
Worldwide energy intensity decreased by about 30% between 1990 and 2015. The reduction has occurred in nearly all regions of the world, in both developed economies and emerging ones.