By 2040 Fossil Fuels Will Still Be Providing Over 80% Of America’s Power

oil and gas

According to the Department of Energy, the future of fossil fuel energy in America is still very bright. Energy sources like oil, gas and coal will continue to provide, by far, most of the nation’s power.

“Renewable” or “green” energy? Not so much. From Mark Perry:

Based on the government forecast, the fossil fuel (coal, natural gas and oil) share of U.S. energy consumption will fall only slightly in the future, from 84.3% of total U.S. energy demand in 2010 to 80.1% in 2040 (see chart above). On the other hand, the future of renewable energy as a fuel source is not looking so bright, in terms of its contribution to America’s future energy demand. In 2010, renewables (wood, municipal waste, biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal, solar, and wind for generation in the electric power sector; and ethanol for gasoline blending and biomass-based diesel in the transportation sector), contributed only 6.8% of U.S. energy consumption. Even by 2035, almost 30 years from now, all renewable energies together are expected to contribute less than 11% of the total energy demand in the U.S.

The problem with long-view projections like this is that we don’t know what technological innovations might take place between now and then. The “peak oil” people made that same mistake when they assumed that our demand for oil would one day outstrip production. What they didn’t take into account was technological innovations that improved production, and allowed us to reach previously untouchable oil and gas resources.

The same could happen in the green energy industry. Maybe some brilliant engineer or scientist will find a way to make wind energy cheaper and more reliable. Maybe someone will find something ethanol is good for (besides a convenient vehicle for funneling lots and lots of tax dollars into the agriculture industry). It could happen, and if it did I would welcome those innovations. My objection to green energy and the mountains of subsidies and preferential treatment it receives from the government isn’t that I have a problem with wind, solar, etc. It’s that, as things sit now, they don’t work very well.

Maybe one day they will. But for now, what’s wrong with recognizing that fossil fuels do work very, very well?

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • igx

    The problem is the oil market isn’t free. It’s controlled by nutty, kooky, dictators. We need to incentivize switching fleet vehicles to natural gas. If we all had thorium nukes, we could have some electric cars. Incentivizing bio diesel somehow is probably prudent.

  • Guest

    That’s not a good thing. While future innovation may be able to stretch the amount of time until we exhaust fossil fuel supplies, it won’t change the fact that they remain in limited supply. Being resigned to the fact that fossil fuels will remain a predominant source of energy for the foreseeable future does unjustifiably excuses neglect into other sources of energy. Germany, for example, expects to rely on 80% renewable energies by 2050. You claim that renewables don’t work, but today’s Germany has 2040 United States already beat with 25% of energy being renewable. While that 80% might be a tough goal to make, nostalgia that fossil fuels worked in the past certainly won’t solve anything.

    • mickey_moussaoui

      You see fosil as a problem but it’s not. It’s a blessing. Efficiency standards will rise as they already have. BTW, Germany is a fraction of the size of the USA. Hardly a comparable. Renewables still lack the “bang for the buck” in terms of energy produced per cost of development. Renewables fit the niche as a supplimental energy source for low level demand. If the global economy continues to tank you will be gratefull we have fossil to rely on.

      • Guest

        I didn’t disagree the fossils fuels have been a blessing. However, why waste research dollars on a resource we know is finite to expand it’s life only a few years instead of into what will inevitably have to be the energy sources of the future? It’s also ironic you argue efficiency standards will solve the problem, as conservatives have been one of the biggest obstacles to stricter efficiency standards. Moreover, Germany’s comparable size, if anything, hampers it’s opportunities to utilize renewable energies as it lacks many of the opportunities available in the United States, such as vast wind farms or ideal spots to build geothermal plants. So despite its size, Germany still uses more renewable resources as a percent of total energy today than the United States will for at least half century.

        • mickey_moussaoui

          100 years of known fossil fuel supply is hardly “a few years”.

          New technology in resource management will most likely extend that time frame as it already has. The problem is that renewable energy, being more expensive, wastes government resources while raising the cost of energy to domestic households and businesses, including manufacturers. It’s a nice supplimental source and it deserves further research but it is NOT an alternative resource at this time. That is the cold hard fact of it all. The wisdom of history doesn’t change for the folly of youth