EIA: U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions to Grow 8.7% by 2035

December 16, 2009

In the absence of new policies, the U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use will increase from 5,814 million metric tons in 2008 to 6,320 million metric tons in 2035, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). That represents an average annual growth of 0.3% per year. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions dominate overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so the overall emissions are expected to follow the same trend. On the one hand, that's a slower growth rate than that of the past two decades, when U.S. greenhouse gases increased at an average annual rate of 0.7%. On the other hand, it falls fall short of President Obama's recent pledge to reduce greenhouse gases in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, which echoed climate legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives this year. A similar bill is under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

The EIA released the main conclusions of the reference case for its "Annual Energy Outlook 2010" on December 14, although the full report won't be available until March 2010. The reference case projects a lower long-term price for oil than the 2009 reference case, but petroleum demand remains essentially constant, as biofuels meet most of the growth in demand for liquid fuels. However, the report predicts that biofuels will fall short of the 36 billion gallons required by 2022 under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. The report also expects flex-fuel vehicles and electrified vehicles to dominate the sales of cars and light trucks by 2035, helping to achieve an average light-duty fuel efficiency of 40 miles per gallon. The EIA expects these and other energy efficiency measures and structural changes in the U.S. economy to keep overall energy growth low, with energy consumption increasing by only 14% over the next 27 years.

The growth in electricity demand is also expected to be relatively low, averaging only 1% per year, with non-hydropower renewable energy and natural gas providing most of the new capacity additions over the next 27 years. Non-hydropower renewable sources are expected to meet 41% of the growth in total electricity production, causing the percentage of the nation's electricity produced from renewable energy (including hydropower) to increase from 9.1% in 2008 to 17% in 2035, taking market share away from coal power. Meanwhile, the U.S. production of natural gas from shale will cause domestic natural gas production to increase, keeping imports of liquefied natural gas at low levels. See the EIA press release and the early release of the "Annual Energy Outlook 2010."