The most recent energy outlook from the IEA is frightening[1]. If the world continues its current pace of growth of the economy, we will need 50% more energy in 2030 than today (for what is called a “Reference Scenario”). Since fossil fuels continue to play a dominant role in our economy, the level of CO2 emissions is expected to increase by at least 25% [2]. This will clearly put the world in an even more apocalyptic climate change scenario.

The main contributors to this increase are China and India. They account for 45% of the global increase. All developing countries together account for about 75% of the increase in energy demand. But it must be remarked that per capita the CO2 emissions of China in 2030 is still only 40% of that of the USA and India is even much less.[3] China and India’s energy demand will double from 2005 to 2030 [4].

The combined oil imports of China and India will increase by almost a factor of 4 from 2006 to 2030. China will already surpass the USA in 2010 as the world’s largest energy consumer. Not because that China is making no efforts to increase energy efficiency but it is simply not enough. Because China is a net producer of many goods, increasing its energy efficiency will have a direct impact on the world’s greenhouse balance. India’s energy reduction approaches are not well defined yet.

The IPPC’s scenario of about 2.5°C increase would call for a CO2 level not higher than 440 ppm. This implies that CO2 emission levels must fall somewhere between 50% to 80% of the 2000 levels by 2050. Obviously this will not come automatically and can only be accomplished when, at government level, swift and substantial actions are taken[5]. The main producers of CO2 are fossil power plants, therefore reduction of electricity demand is of prime importance here. In addition the IEA report also mentions nuclear power plants[6], renewable energy sources and clean coal technology[7] that can reduce CO2 emissions.

One recommendation found in the report is that the western nations must help China and India in order to develop sustainable energy power plants and to conduct research that will lead to less fossil fuel dependence for overall electricity generation.

 © Copyright 2008, John E.J. Schmitz

[1]The distressing numbers in this blog come from the executive summary of the World Energy Outlook 2007 from the International Energy Agency.

[2] And this is of course where the real threat is. Even if we are able, by more efficient energy transformations, to lower the amount of kWh needed to generate a certain amount of GDP, the fact that the world’s GDP continues to increase will neutralizes the gain of better efficiencies. In other words, we must decrease the growth of the GDP such that it product of the growth in GDP times the gain in energy efficiency will decrease!

[3]It would have been better if the report had expressed the CO2 emission per capita and the GDP of these countries! See my blog on this topic of May 17, 2007: Energy “Consumption” and the GDP.

[4] And of course who are we that we can deny the people in these countries to improve their standard of living?

[5]This could be false hope, see my blog of May 5, 2007: Will Politicians Solve the Global Warming Problem?

[6]See my blog of June 17, 2007 (The Impact of Nuclear and Hydro based Electricity Generation on CO2 Emissions)  that talks about the fact that nuclear plants not always produce less CO2 per kWh if compared with a fossil fuel fired power plant

[7]Because coal remains, because of price and plenty of stocks, an attractive fuel, research has looked to methods to mitigate the environmental issues (such as SO2, Nox and CO2 emissions). One of these methods is CCS: carbon capture and storage.