DOE report: U.S. will remain coal-dependent in 2035, carbon emissions rise

By Todd Woody
December 23, 2010

USA-CARBON/COALThe United States Energy Information Agency has released its preliminary forecast for the nation’s energy market in 2035 and it paints a picture of rising greenhouse gas emissions and an economy locked into a dependence on fossil fuels.

In a scenario sure to give nightmares to those concerned about climate change, the agency predicts that coal will supply 43 percent of the U.S.’s electricity demand in 2035, down just two percent from 2009.  Natural gas’s share of the market rises slightly to 25 percent while nuclear provides 17 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2035, down from 20 percent today. Renewable energy production rises from 10 percent to 14 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions will rise five percent, barring a legislative cap on carbon, by 2035. In other words, the future looks a lot like the present, which according to climate scientists means a potential economic disaster from rising sea levels and disruption of food production.

The agency’s forecast is at odds with a recent projection of the 2035 market by Black & Veatch, the global engineering and consulting firm.

Unlike the Energy Information Agency, Black & Veatch took into account the probable effect of new federal pollution mandates and the expectation that some form of a cap on greenhouse gas emissions will eventually be imposed.

Black & Veatch predicted that coal-fired power plants’ share of the electricity market will plunge to 25 percent while natural gas will provide 40 percent due to the rapid expansion of new supplies.

The government also tagged natural gas supplies as one of the biggest factors in future energy production. In this year’s report, the Energy Information Agency increased its estimate of potentially recoverable shale gas reserves by 480 trillion cubic feet to 827 trillion cubic feet.

“The larger resource leads to about double the shale gas production,” the report states.

Nevertheless, the agency projects that natural gas’s share of electricity production will increase only by two percent over the next 24 years.

“Coal remains the dominant energy source for electricity generation,” wrote the report’s authors, who downgraded the nation’s photovoltaic solar and wind power capacity in 2035 to 10.5 gigawatts from last year’s estimate of 11.2 gigawatts.

The full final report will be released in March.

3 comments

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If that is the case in 2035, it would be absolutely embarrassing and appalling…

In 25 years, if we cannot increase our renewable energy production so that it is more than 14% of our total production, we need to be ashamed of ourselves.

Strategically (economic, resource, military, etc.), it is in our best interest to make the shift to renewable energy production.

Posted by MrTimeAttack | Report as abusive

Something seems odd here. The U.S. currently has 36.7 gigawatts of wind installed (as of the end of the third quarter of 2010 – awea.org/rn_release_10-29-10.cfm . I think it is extremely unlikely that it will drop to 11.2 GW (including solar) over the next 25 years.–Regards, Tom Gray, American Wind Energy Association

Posted by tomgraywind | Report as abusive

Do either of these studies factor in the greenhouse gases associated with the steel production involved in manufacturing wind turbines? Or the energy required to refine silicon to a level pure enough for solar panel manufacturing? I’m guessing not….

Posted by jobon1 | Report as abusive

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