Carving up the OECD
We are now going to put countries into one of three buckets–the 5% bucket, 3% bucket or 1% bucket. Those percentages are the mid-range of growth in energy consumption that I will project for them between now and 2050. Unlike other, more sophisticated models, I will use cruder metrics–projected growth in population and GDP per capita. And, although I think these cruder metrics will be closer to the final outcome than the more sophisticated models being used today, for now I think it’s best to characterize this effort as an effort to provide an alternative set of numbers for comparison’s sake.
We’ll start with the OECD. It is common practice to treat the OECD as a monolithic bloc, for analysis of energy and GDP and much else besides. This may have been acceptable when the OECD had its original membership of 20 countries, but now that membership has grown to 34, the differences between members are getting too large to ignore. As the OECD has now offered enhanced engagement to Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, the differences in development paths that members take will only grow.
Energy consumption in the OECD grew from 178.9 quads in 1980 (the DOE EIA’s figures do include where possible figures for countries that later joined, so it’s almost apples to apples–three countries didn’t have figures for 1980) to 243.3 quads in 2008, a CAGR of 1.1%. (That’s very low, obviously–but remember that the EIA actually projects growth going forward at less than half that rate, having adjusted their projection downwards from 0.6% to 0.4% through 2035.)
However, reporting at group level does hide significant variation. Australia, for example, grew at 2.68% annually and Turkey nearly matched that with growth of 2.65%. But their respectable growth is masked by slow growth in larger countries like Germany, which saw its energy consumption decrease since 1980, as East Germany abandoned loss-making inefficient manufacturing.
So, before I present the results, it’s time for another expression of frustration at the thinking that goes into this type of analysis. Follow the bouncing ball, here.
The OECD expects the population of its member states to grow at 0.2% per year through 2050, reaching a total of 1.33 billion souls, up from 1.22 billion in 2009, a total increase of 111 million people. Ooookayyy, but their population growth rate for the past 12 years was three times that rate… and they also project that 15 of their member states have been growing faster than that 0.2% annual average. Those 15 states have 56% of the OECD’s population.
So I’ll stop part one of this extravaganza with the observation that I am not confident of their population projections–the U.S. is an OECD member. Even using the Middle Series population projections of the U.S. Census Bureau provides a growth rate of 1.07% through 2050. The U.S. constitutes 25% of the population in OECD countries. The growth in population in the U.S. alone is expected to be 92 million people.
Nor am I confident that a population that is growing at any rate at all can be counted on to reduce their energy consumption growth rate by half.
Well, let’s move on to Part 2.
3000 Quads is about energy for the 21st century. The world’s population is now estimated to peak at between 9 and 10 billion people somewhere around 2075. If they use energy at the same rate as the average American, they will consume 3,000 quadrillion btus. That isn’t written in stone–the Danes use half as much energy per person as Americans and they have a pretty good life. The developing world could aim for a Danish lifestyle instead of Yankee over-exuberance. But if it comes to pass, then we face a dilemma. If most of that energy is provided by burning coal, we face something close to disaster. My name is Tom Fuller. I work at a solar power company called Sungevity, a premiere provider of solar power to homeowners in the United States.
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