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Business Report

Our Energy Future by the Numbers

Statistics from the U.S. government suggest that our energy choices and level of consumption will not change much over the next few decades.

If you want to create an effective energy policy for your company, you need to understand how energy consumption and production are likely to change in the foreseeable future. At least two broad trends are important to keep in mind. First, while renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, receive a great deal of attention, they will remain minor contributors to our overall energy mix. Nearly all our energy is derived from fossil fuels, whether petroleum, natural gas, or coal, and that will remain true for at least the next few decades. Second, demand for energy will continue to grow, keeping prices high. Although industrial energy consumption fell in 2009 as a result of the worldwide recession, by 2017 or so the industrial sector will consume more energy than all other users combined. That will not change for decades to come.

There is, of course, a wild card. If consumption trends continue and economic growth is strong, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel use will nearly double by 2035. If, as climate scientists predict, this buildup of carbon dioxide begins producing dire effects related to global warming, all bets are off, because governments are likely to consider radical remedies to increase the use of cleaner energy sources.

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