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A Little More Gas, A Little Less Coal: Analyst Explains the U.S. Annual Energy Outlook

America’s energy mix in 2040 won’t be drastically different from what it is today: a little less coal and oil, a little more natural gas and renewable energy. That’s according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook.Paul Holtberg—the leader of the EIA’s Analysis Integration Team—was in Louisville last week to give a presentationto the local chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics. Here are a few of the key takeaways from Holtberg’s presentation, and from the early release of the EIA’s annual report:

  • The U.S. won’t achieve total energy independence by 2040, but be close. In 2011, the country consumed about 19 percent more energy than it produced; by 2040, that number will fall to 9 percent.
  • By 2040, natural gas and renewable energy will record the biggest growth in the country’s energy production. The projection is that natural gas will make up 35 percent of the U.S.’s energy production, and renewables will account for 14 percent. Coal’s still in the mix, and makes up 24 percent of the production (down from 28 percent in 2011).
  • In terms of energy consumption, the landscape in 2040 doesn’t look so different than it does in 2011. The biggest share is from oil and other liquids, followed by natural gas and then coal.
  • Energy use per capita and carbon dioxide emissions per capita are both projected to decrease between 2011 and 2040. This is partly because of energy efficiency measures, but also partly because of a slow economic recovery.
  • Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions never get back to their 2005 level…this is under the reference case, which assumes only current laws and regulations.
  • Coal consumption falls through 2016, but then grows after that. This is because the remaining coal is used more intensely, and there’s an increase in the energy generated from coal-to-liquids technology.
  • Of the renewable energy sources, solar shows the most growth by 2040, but wind will make up the biggest share of renewable energy generation.