Our Fossil-Fueled Future – World Energy in 2040

While it may be exciting to imagine what kind of mysterious super-fuels or efficient types of renewable energy the world will be running off of in the future, the United States Department of Energy came to a less exciting conclusion in their International Energy Outlook (IEO) assessment. This is a comprehensive prediction of what the world energy state will look like in 2040. Various factors make a comprehensive prediction difficult, of course, as there will always be unexpected disasters, political upheavals, or even breaks in technology. The IEO takes a stab at it with detailed projections of our future energy production and consumption.

Their prediction does not include the green industry some of us believe we’re headed for, but rather an energy system based mostly on coal, oil, and natural gas, with hydro-fracking much more common. Renewable green energy such as wind and solar energy has its place in the prediction, but still represents a very small portion in the total energy use. In fact, they predict that coal will still be a larger producer of energy than renewables, nuclear, and hydropower combined.

It also predicts China to remain at the forefront of energy use, with an estimated 40% of the growth in total consumption being attributed there. In order to meet the growing energy needs of every country, the prediction is that fossil fuel production will be ramped up and the environment will suffer as a consequence. Modern endeavors, such as the investments across the world toward shale oil and shale gas extraction, provide the basis for these predictions.

Of course, this is a prediction with many random elements. The IEO assessment is also not a visionary assessment, meaning that it is based off of predictions using current statistics and trends. Breakthroughs could happen that change the face of energy and the environmental outlook could change in such a way that the world begins investing in renewable or more “green” energy much more heavily than they are currently. This, though, is the current prediction.


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