American Energy: The Decades Ahead

The U.S Energy Information Administration recently released the Annual Energy Outlook 2017. The publication is updated annually and provides modeled projections of domestic energy markets through 2050, taking into account various economic scenarios and assumptions, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies. Below are some highlights from that report (all projections reflect the “Reference Case” scenario*).

 

Consumption:

  • Overall domestic energy consumption will remain relatively flat, rising 5% from the 2016 level through 2040, but the fuel mix changes significantly
  • Petroleum consumption will remain flat as improvements in energy efficiency offset growth in the transportation and industrial sectors.
  • On a percentage basis, renewable energy grows the fastest as capital costs fall with increased penetration, combined with the fact that current state and federal policies encourage its use.
  • Liquid biofuels growth will be constrained by relatively flat transportation energy use and blending limitations.
  • Natural gas use will increase more than other fuel sources in terms of quantity of energy consumed, led by demand from the industrial and electric power sectors.

 

Production:

  • Natural gas production will account for nearly 40% of U.S. energy production by 2040. However, this number includes assumptions regarding volatile areas including available resources, technology, and prices that can significantly affect the projection.
  • Crude oil production will increase in the near-term and then level off around 2025 as tight oil (also known as shale oil) development moves into less productive areas. As with natural gas, projected crude oil production varies considerably with assumptions about resources and technology.
  • Total U.S. energy production will increase by more than 20% between 2017 and 2040, led by increases in renewables, natural gas, and crude oil production.
  • Continued population shifts toward warmer parts of the country will lower heating demand and increase cooling demand. However, more energy is used for heating, so the result is a decrease in net delivered energy.

 

With strong domestic production and relatively flat demand, the United States is projected to become a net energy exporter by 2026. However, it’s possible that this transition will occur earlier.

 

 

*The Reference case projection assumes trend improvement in known technologies, along with a view of economic and demographic trends reflecting the current central views of leading economic forecasters. It generally assumes that current laws and regulations affecting the energy sector, including sunset dates for laws that have them, are unchanged throughout the projection period. The potential impacts of proposed legislation, regulations and standards are not reflected in the Reference case.



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