Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Help for Communicating Energy

Here's another great resource for energy communicators: BP Energy Outlook 2030. It has a wealth of data about energy production and use worldwide in 2010 and dares to describe the fast-approaching energy world of 2030. And it presents all this through highly creative graphics like the one above, which consolidates the 2030 expectations for global economic growth, population, energy use, energy use per capita and energy use per GDP into a single graph.
In brief, the Outlook presents a world that is slowing its population growth (but still adding 1.4 billion in the next 20 years), speeding up economic growth (largely outside the OECD), and rapidly improving its energy efficiency, which leads to significant decreases in the amount of energy required per unit of GDP. Overall, energy use will be up about 40%, with nearly all of that increase coming from developing economies.

Nothing can change fast in energy trends. As BP sees it, the make-up of our future energy use will be similar to today's - about the same proportions coming from coal and nuclear as now; quite a bit more from renewables, on a percentage basis, but still up to only 11% of the world's electric power generation. The biggest changes are in oil, which will grow only slightly - partly because of rising prices - and will drop significantly in terms of its share of energy supply; and in natural gas, which is rapidly becoming the "go-to" fuel worldwide. It is expected to provide over a quarter of the global energy supply. The world's total dependence on fossil fuels will drop from 88% of all the energy we use today to about 81% in 2030.

The United States should be in much better shape than we have been in decades - requiring less imported oil and increasing our exports of natural gas. On balance, because of the oil and gas fields being developed on- and off-shore, we'll be getting closer to that elusive goal of energy independence.

The report clearly shows that we need to make the most of all energy options as well as opportunities for improvements in energy efficiency. It's often a hard case to make to influentials and the public. Check out this report - it can help.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Energy Story, in One Volume

For anyone trying to communicate some of the complexities related to energy and the environment, Daniel Yergin’s new book is a must-have. I say “must-have” rather than “must-read” because it clocks in at about 800 pages, and you may not need to absorb every one of them. But whatever slice of the subject you’re interested in – nuclear power, natural gas and fracking, the effects of the break-up of the Soviet Union, climate change, China’s phenomenal growth in demand, Venezuela’s political weirdness, renewables, the politics and strategic importance of the Persian Gulf, the impact of 9/11, you name it – you’ll find an authoritative account, told in a friendly, compelling narrative. It’s monumental.

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World follows up on Yergin’s earlier masterwork, The Prize, which traced the history of energy use and policy from the dawn of time to the 1980s. This one brings the story up to date, down to such recent events as the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan and the electric-powered Chevy Volt. In addition to knitting together all the complex strands of energy production, use and policy, Quest is a treasure-trove of anecdotes and statistical nuggets that can enliven almost any effort to communicate about energy. A few examples:

  • The developed world uses an average of 14 barrels of oil per person per year; the developing world, only 3 barrels. (What will happen as that number rises to about 6?)
  •  For years China was adding the equivalent of a full-sized coal-fired power plant every week or two, doubling its electric capacity between 2005 and 2010 and surpassing the U.S. in total generation.
  • Worldwide, about 1.6 billion people still have no access to electricity, but rely on kerosene, wood or dung.
  • In only six years, between 1998 and 2004, the new generating capacity added in the U.S. amounted to one-fourth of all the capacity built here since Edison’s first station in 1882 – and 90 percent of it burned natural gas.
  • Even with a growth in electric power usage that has dropped to only 1.4 percent per year, the U.S. generating fleet will need to grow by about one-third in the next 20 years – equivalent to 150 large nuclear power plants or 300 standard coal-fired plants.
And who knew that the first Presidential Address promoting solar power was not delivered by Clinton, or Carter, or even Nixon, but . . . wait for it . . . President Eisenhower, nearly 60 years ago. You’ll find it all in The Quest.