Getting It Wrong: A Brief History of Energy Forecasts

My new piece for the Energy Collective examines the remarkably inaccurate predictions from the past half-century with regards to the latest report from the IEA:

Here is a picture 2012 if the forecasts of the last half of the 20th century had come to pass. First the bad news:

The U.S. has run out of natural gas, that happened some years ago;
Oil also is gone or is on its way out; it costs hundreds of dollars per barrel in any case so no one can afford to use it;
Demand for electricity has never stopped growing; it is so great that a new power plant must open just about every day; the number of such plants has increased more than five-fold since the 1970s;
Most of the rest of the world is also running out of oil and gas except maybe OPEC, which has accumulated trillions of petrodollars—money that these countries are using to become the world’s richest economies;
Which is a good thing for OPEC because by now few can afford to use any fossil fuels except coal, which is polluting cities across the globe;
In general, the age of oil and natural gas is over.

But not to worry, there’s plenty of good news:

Nuclear power is ubiquitous in the U.S. and too cheap to meter;
Cellulosic ethanol was commercialized in the 1990s and is plentiful; it costs less than $1 per gallon;
Coal is being turned into liquid and gaseous substitutes for oil and gas that are much cheaper than what’s left of the real thing;
Homes use solar heat and hot water—which became the commercial leader in the late 1980s;
Electric cars are commonplace, but most people rely on public transportation.

Read the whole thing at the Energy Collective.


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