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Exxon predictions

As world leaders struggle to deliver an agreement at COP17 in Durban, Exxon has released sobering predictions on global energy demand.

At 16.20h on 9 December, The Guardian reported that Greenpeace’s international director Kumi Naidoo was among those removed from the conference centre following the protest in the afternoon.

This may perhaps be a measure of the intense pressure being placed upon the international policy makers gathered in Durban, striving to achieve a roadmap to reducing carbon emissions. Problems regarding the definitions and the scale of a legal framework for all countries to commit to halting carbon emissions post-2020 appear to be the main stumbling block.

Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative, issued the following statement on 9 December: “There is still time to make some incremental progress on a few key issues here in Durban, but it’s important to realise that incremental progress is pretty much all we’ve seen for 17 years.

“The bottom line is that, no matter the final scenario, we are not seeing the kind of ambition of governments that will keep warming to 2°C. In fact, some scenarios in play here could result in being legally bound to a 4°C world. This would have dire consequences and result in an unstable future where the basic needs of people, like food and water, could no longer be met.

“So it’s important that governments, when they finish here, remind themselves that they don’t yet deserve any congratulations, we haven’t solved the threat of climate change and they are responsible for that.

“In Cancun, governments agreed that they would limit global warming to 2°C to avoid disastrous climate change. But what they’re doing here could mean we’ll miss that target with catastrophic consequences for people and nature all over the world. And they need to remember that when they go home.

Smith continued, saying, “If leaders are truly serious about addressing climate change, they must use this time to ensure we keep 2°C in reach. They must commit to a 2015 timeline for agreeing an ambitious deal and immediately chart a course to get us back on track.

“They must reflect on why they are here and prove to the public that they will do more to reduce pollution and be held accountable to those promises.”

Against this background, the timing of Exxon’s data release on global energy predictions seems planned to maximise the effect on policymakers.

Exxon findings
While demand in the United States and other fully developed economies will remain relatively constant, global growth in energy demand will be led by China and other countries which are not part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Non-OECD energy demand is projected to rise by nearly 60% from 2010 to 2040.
While global energy demand is expected to rise by about 30% from 2010 to 2040, demand growth would be approximately four times that amount without projected gains in efficiency. Efficiency is the key reason why energy demand will rise by only about 1% a year on average even as global GDP rises by nearly 3% a year. It also is the reason why OECD energy demand will remain relatively unchanged through 2040 even as its economic output nearly doubles.

In transportation, the second-fastest growing demand sector behind electricity generation, ExxonMobil sees advanced hybrid vehicles accounting for 50% of the cars people will drive in 2040, compared to about 1% today. This, plus improved fuel economy in conventional vehicles, will cause demand for energy for personal vehicles to remain essentially flat through 2040 even as the number of personal vehicles in the world doubles.

However, demand for energy for commercial transportation, trucks, airplanes, ships and trains, will rise by more than 70%, driven by economic growth, particularly in non-OECD nations.

Demand for oil and other liquid fuels will rise by nearly 30%, and most of that increase will be linked to transportation. A growing share of the supplies used to meet liquid-fuel demand will come from deepwater, oil sands, tight oil, natural gas liquids and biofuels.

Natural gas will continue to be the fastest growing major fuel, and demand will increase by about 60% from 2010 to 2040. Growth is particularly strong in the non-OECD countries in the Asia Pacific region, where demand for natural gas is expected to triple over the next 30 years.

While growth in nuclear capacity is expected to slow in the near term, demand for nuclear power is projected to nearly double over paper’s period as nations seek to lower emissions and diversify energy sources.

Demand for energy will rise through 2040 as global economic output doubles and prosperity expands across a world where population will grow to nearly 9bn people, said Exxon Mobil Corp in “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040.”

Extending its annual long-term energy forecast to 2040 for the first time, ExxonMobil said this year’s Outlook reveals several trends that will influence how the world uses energy over the coming decades.

The Outlook projects that global energy demand in 2040 will be about 30% higher than it was in 2010, led by growth in developing regions such as China, India, Africa and other emerging economies.

While oil will remain the most-widely used fuel, overall energy demand will be reshaped by a continued shift toward less carbon-intensive energy sources such as natural gas, as well as steep improvements in energy efficiency in areas like transportation, where the expanded use of hybrid vehicles will help push average new car fuel economy to nearly 50mpg by 2040.

Nonetheless, such a rise in predicted demand remains a sobering prospect in a world where renewables remain on the periphery of global energy supply. Innovation and rollout will need to ramp up considerably for clean technologies to play a greater role.

“The Outlook for Energy demonstrates that by applying innovation and technology, the world does not need to choose between economic growth and environmental stewardship,” said Rex W Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation.
“As people in developed countries look to regain their economic momentum, and as everyone seeks improved living standards for themselves and their families, ExxonMobil will continue to invest in the technologies that enable us to provide the reliable, affordable energy central to economic growth and human progress.”

As in previous editions of The Outlook, rising demand for electricity is identified as the single largest influence on energy trends. ExxonMobil projects that global electricity demand will rise by 80% through 2040 as economies and living standards improve, and consumers switch to electricity from other sources such as oil, coal or biomass. By 2040, four out of every 10 units of energy produced in the world will be going toward the production of electricity.

Exxon argues the mix of fuels used to produce electricity will change dramatically, however, as nations shift away from coal in favour of lower carbon sources such as natural gas, which emit up to 60% less CO2 than coal when used for electricity generation. By 2040, it predicts 30% of the world’s electricity will be produced using natural gas, while demand for coal will peak and experience its first long-term decline in modern history.

The Outlook for Energy also reveals the impact of new technologies that are expanding global energy supplies, such as advances in production techniques that have unlocked a century’s worth of natural gas across the United States. ExxonMobil estimates that natural gas from shale and similar sources will account for 30% of global gas production by 2040.

Whilst Exxon’s report does not massively focus on renewables, renewables rollouts globally are continuing. DTE Biomass Energy has just started operating a 3.2MW landfill gas-to-energy facility at the Smith’s Creek Landfill in Kimball Township.

The electricity is produced at a facility operated by Blue Water Renewables Inc, a subsidiary of DTE Biomass Energy.

The Smith’s Creek Landfill, owned and operated by St Clair County, operates one of the first commercial scale septage injection landfill gas systems in the United States, whereby material extracted from septic tanks is applied to the landfill to speed the decomposition of organic waste. This process not only increases the life of the landfill, but also increases the rate of landfill gas generation used to fuel electricity production.

About 75 construction jobs were created for the facility, which will produce enough electricity to power about 3000 homes.

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