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2011 Energy Outlook: More Renewables, Fewer Imports

12/29/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: natural gas, coal, alternative energy, green energy, renewable energy

Non-hydro renewable energy and natural gas are the fastest growing fuels used to generate electricity in the United States, but coal continues to dominate the energy market, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association’s 2011 projections. In addition to the growing importance of natural gas from domestic shale gas resources, “energy efficiency improvements and the increased use of renewables are other key factors that moderate the projected growth in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions,' stated EIA Administrator Richard Newell.

coal fired power plant 
Although no new coal-fired power plants are expected to be built in 2011, coal will remain the king of the energy market. Photo By Bruno D. Rodrigues/Courtesy Flickr. 

Some key findings of the EIA’s report:

Higher estimates of domestic shale gas resources support increased natural gas production at lower prices. Shale gas production is predicted to double.

Imports meet a major but declining share of total U.S. energy demand. Increased use of domestically produced biofuels, adoption of efficiency standards, and rising energy prices have moderated demand for imported oil. Rising fuel prices also spur domestic energy production across all fuels, which moderates growth in energy imports.

Coal remains king, but we won’t see more coal-fired power plants. Coal dominates because we have so much of it—and the infrastructure to use it. However, EIA is not projecting any new central station coal-fired power plants beyond those already under construction or supported by clean coal incentives. The EIA predicts that use of renewable resources will increase from 11 percent in 2009 to 14 percent in 2035. Natural gas use will increase from 23 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2035.

And now for the not-so-good news:

Assuming no changes in policy related to greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide emissions will grow slowly, but won’t again reach 2005 levels until 2027. After falling 3 percent in 2008 and nearly 7 percent in 2009, largely driven by the economic downturn, energy-related CO2 emissions will not return to 2005 levels (5,980 million metric tons) until 2027. CO2 emissions will then rise by an additional 5 percent from 2027 to 2035, reaching 6,315 million metric tons in 2035.  Surely, we can do better than that.

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