The Three Chinas and World Energy Demand

Guest post by Thomas Fuller

I have been broadly correct about two important things in my career as an analyst. (I wasn’t the only one and I wasn’t the first–just far enough ahead of the curve to make a difference.)
The two things were the demographic decline of much of Europe and the rapid adoption of the internet following the release of the world wide web. I was not studying or researching either topic at the time–the two phenomena leapt out of other research I was conducting and were obviously more important than what I was doing at the time, so I dropped what I was doing and started looking at them exclusively.
So now it’s time to try for the trifecta. (No, I really don’t care about that at all–but this is the third Capital Letter Issue that has jumped out at me, so what the hey…)
Inadequate projections of latent demand for energy are leading to poor decisions now and are muddying the debate about both climate change and energy policy for the rest of the century.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the United Nations both project global consumption of energy at 680 and 703 quads respectively by the period 2030-2035 (a ‘quad’ is one quadrillion btus, roughly the energy you could liberate from 36 million tons of coal).
However, consumption trends, if extended, are far higher–they could reach 2,100 quads by 2030, if adequate energy was available consistently and at decent prices. This is because of the confluence of several important demographic trends.
The overall population is rising–it will be about 8.1 billion in 2030, the equivalent of adding another China to the planet. The comparison is fairly apt, as most of these new humans will be born into societies that look like China does now, or like China did 15 or 20 years ago.
These new humans will be stepping onto the energy ladder and consuming vastly higher quantities of energy than did their parents–if it’s available. They will be moving from farms with no electricity into slums with a minimum of electricity–but shortly thereafter, development and globalization will start them on the road to refrigeration, television, washer/dryers, computers, motor scooters, cars, ad infinitum.
These new humans will be joined by yet another virtual China–existing people who benefit from the same processes of development and globalization and jump on the energy ladder with both feet and both hands.
Obviously, many of both type will actually be in China. But even more will be in places like Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, large swathes of Africa and the rest of the developing world.
They will want what they perceive as a modern lifestyle–in America that amounts to 327 billion btus per person per year in energy consumption. In Denmark, it’s a much more modest 161 billion btus. But in either case, latent demand for energy will far exceed the 700 quads currently projected by the DOE and the UN.
Assume 7 billion people will be on the energy ladder (changing from wood and animal dung on their way to coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear and hopefully arriving some day soon at the promised land of renewable energy). This means there are 1 billion people we have failed. (And I don’t want to ignore them–I just want to present believable numbers for this exercise.)
If those 7 billion consume energy as Americans do it comes to 2,289 quads. (The total will obviously be less, as they won’t all be near the top of the ladder by 2030). If they adopt a Danish model and develop towards that (efficient use of combined heat and power, high taxes on gas, generally high prices for energy, conscious drive to conserve), global energy demand will be 1,127 quads.
Although I would wish that people new to the modern world would automatically choose the far better Danish model, I predict that they will opt for the easier, softer American model and their energy needs will skyrocket.
However, in either case, we will need far more energy than is currently predicted. If they do not get it, they will not fully participate in what the modern world has to offer–education, good healthcare, clean air and water. Nor will they participate in the modern economy, further enriching the rich world with purchases of video games and expensive perfumes. We all will lose, although the losses of the poor will be heartbreaking.
It may well be that the DOE and the UN have correctly identified what governments are willing to build and provide in the way of new energy–but if they are correct, we are condemning billions of people to needlessly live a wretched existence that they would avoid if they could. Because using energy is not just a sign of success at development, or a reward for doing it right or a ‘welcome to the club’–it is often the key mechanism that enables development.
The poor–the two new Chinas–will fight and scheme to get the energy they need. They will burn coal, oil, whatever is available to escape the life sentence of the poor–lives that are nasty, brutish and short.
This conversation is not really about global warming at all. But it is certainly relevant to discussions of our planet’s future climate. China has doubled its energy consumption since 2000. There are two new ‘Chinas’ eager to do exactly the same, mimicking our behaviour of the last two centuries and following the original China’s current example.
The sources and quantities of energy we make available to the world will determine what our planet will look like in the medium term.
There’s no getting around that.

Thomas Fuller


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Energy is a business. If such businesses were allowed to sell their products for a profit without governmental controls on quantities, there would be a lot more of it.


Nice analysis.
Unfortunately, it seems that the “fighting and scheming” is what those running the AGW scam want.
No doubt the fighting and scheming will become global and reduce the population.
Win-Win, if you’re one of the anti-human AGW brigade.


If it makes any difference, I expect that battery technology will have matured and electric cars will dominate over gas. With 15 minute charging, it’s almost there already. Big trucks are another matter though. Maybe compressed natural gas , tar sands, or coal to oil for them.


Anthony – Why the very limited growth in natural gas to 2030 and decline from then on? Don’t think this is realistic. New unconventional gas resources (shale gas, tight gas, CSG) would have the capacity to fill practically all the renewables wedge through to at least 2060. Suspect that Lynn Orr’s analysis may be heavily reliant on pre-2000 resource estimates which do not take this into account.


This one is a very good addendum to your post. – how China sees the developed countries carbon politics.

Kum Dollison

Pretty reasonable chart. Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?
If you break it down into small areas you will see that the task isn’t nearly as daunting as it seems when you’re dealing in thousands of “quads.”

Your paper highlights probably the most important issue all of humanity faces – we have roughly 4billion too many humans already. How does anyone in that palace of corruption that is the UN think we are ever going to be able to support 8 billion – six billion more than the planet can support?


Interesting take. If energy is as strongly linked with the betterment of livelihood as you suggest, then we need massive amounts of additional energy. Even if your Danish model is adopted, the least of all evils is probably to acquire as much as possible of this additional capacity from nuclear energy. Biofuels take up too much good land, and there are presently limitations to some of the other alternative options. As for oil and gas, conventional supplies are the least destructive, but they may be approaching their peak. If you put humans on a geological timescale, the rate at which we are using those resources is frightening… technology to the rescue fast, please. Most of us won’t stop reproducing (what’s more fulfilling than children) and most of us won’t change our behaviours until we’re in deep trouble, because what is best for the individual is energy consumption, even if what is best for humanity is conservation. Tragedy of the commons guaranteed!

Layne Blanchard

I find your rationale completely wrong. It is the very fixation on scarcity upon which AGW and collectivist ideology rests.
These new citizens will not “opt for the easier, softer American model” because they won’t be able to afford it. They will need an infrastructure and industry comparable to ours before they will even have access to the same level of consumption, and it is ENERGY which will provide them that, along the way, delivering increased consumerism.
Crushing them or us with giant taxes won’t create more energy or prosperity, just a lower standard of living. This notion that choking ourselves and our consumption will somehow lead to the promised land is ridiculous.
Demand will drive the delivery of energy. All efforts should focus on enabling rather than impeding the provision of needed commodities. Left alone, price will regulate consumption. Innovation will capitalize on the higher prices, and deliver increased availability.
I take no issue with conservation when driven by a free market. I don’t even mind the rigorous CAFE standards. But don’t try to sell me on paranoia. America has the world’s largest reserves of coal, and more than a Trillion barrels of oil in shale. Exxon has discovered more reserves than they have consumed every year for the last 16 years. Known natural gas reserves have also recently rocketed. We’ve just reviewed here the vast reserves of Nuclear fuels.
Man cannot shrink away from challenges and snivel in the corner. He must use his ingenuity to find or make the resources to deliver prosperity. Fear of scarcity is certainty of failure.

Martin Brumby

The only report of which I am aware that looks at this half-way logically is:-
Note that this is the projection of the generation needs for a developed economy (the UK) up to 2050. And their base case assumption is the rather fanciful one of energy consumption being capped at current levels.
Just check out what new energy infrastructure they say is needed if we are to strive to 80% CO2 reduction by 2050!
I should point out that these aren’t a bunch of nasty deniers funded by BigOil. They are a bunch of highly qualified energy engineers who are also AGW alarmists (and who are heavily in the pay of Nuclear, BigWind and the rest.
But the sums are probably appropriate and they have the probably got the ‘right answers’ (even though that is the right answers to the wrong questions).
This is presented as the “solution” to the UK’s energy problems (although it brushes away the fact that BigWind just doesn’t work). Just imagine what are the implications of similar policies in Africa!
Tom Fuller’s article is spot on. Or as Dr. Roy Spencer points out, the war against global warming is actually a war on the poor.


Back in 2008 when we procured with you the publication of a similar, but more detailed article you didn’t even answer back. I welcome your progress and hope you can keep on the right tack.

Martin Mason

Excellent write up and worrying in many ways. I back humankind to adapt though. You can see some point in what the AGW industry is driving at in that we really do need to use energy much more efficiently and I’m sure there are few even on this side of the debate who would disagree. I just don’t agree with the way that they are doing it.


interesting take ..but I think flawed …you assume a standstill of technology and innovation, this I feel unlikely …in the west energy use peaked in around 2007 and is now dropping ..this is not because of recession but due to the increasingly efficient use of energy, this trend will continue, the new chinas of whom you speak won’t just emulate the old outmoded western model they will more than likely leapfrog into the newer more efficient paradigm. As their wealth grows their population will stabilise and eventually begin to fall as this happens their energy use will slow too .
your graph is IMHO simplistic it assumes peak fossil fuel which is by no means certain and in light of new shale gas finds quite unlikely


“we are condemning billions of people to needlessly live a wretched existence that they would avoid if they could”
No, we are not.
Please read my finger: ‘da poor’ do not have a blank check on my existence or determine my choices of what to do with my resources.
However, those who attempt to use an argument based on ‘the white man’s burden’ or ‘my brother’s keeper’ to influence my sentiments are sorely deserving of a proper non-PC explanation of stfu.


I suspect there are too many variables to make the ‘the 2nd/3rd world will all be consuming energy at 1st world rates in 25 years time’ statement very accurate at all. Most of all we do not know what technologies lie around the corner – if solar panel prices continue to fall at current rates solar electricity will be competitive with fossil fuels within 10-15 years. If battery technology improves also, it is entirely feasible that by 2035 the entire West could have houses with 75% of their electrical needs supplied by solar means. Equally we don’t know how much nuclear energy will be used in 2035, as it is a political decision, not a purely rational/technology one. Fusion technology may have also come to fruition.
The Victorian Londoners thought that London would soon be 6 feet deep in horse manure, due to the rapid growth in horse usage. Fortunately for them Mr Benz had other ideas. We similarly are using past trends to predict the future. Which is fine, until the trends change.


Please forgo the pathetic urge to wring drama from your back of the envelope calculations.
Scaremongering is as fashionable and group emoting is socially fulfilling for some, but tent-show is tent-show. And this is low rent tent-show.
When come back, bring pie.

mikael pihlström

Martin Brumby says:
August 13, 2010 at 12:53 am
“Tom Fuller’s article is spot on.”
Yes, rather
“Or as Dr. Roy Spencer points out, the war against global warming is actually a war on the poor.”
No, the “war” is a gradual transition to a low-carbon global economy, which is
necessary in any long-term scenario. Starting in a decisive manner right now
will also lessen very likely climate induced socioeconomic damages.


I think the analysis is correct, but any prediction of timing a supply crunch will be extremely difficult as accurate numbers are impossible to get. I wonder about the numbers from The U.S. Department of Energy and the United Nations, experience shows their numbers usually present a fluffy picture regarding energy.
The graph presented above for example has crude peaking around 2020, with a long tail off. This is grossly underestimated IMO, and takes no account of “net peak oil” see
I suspect the wind/solar/renewable/nuclear projections probably don’t take account of the embedded energy required to manufacture/bring them on line in the first place, or the lower EROEI from harder to extract resources, which will bring the nice long sloping curve down – to a more abrupt cliff edge, certainly much steeper than the graph suggests.
Is there a link to the original research presented in the graph?
Regardless, I’m not convinced this has any major implications for our climate directly, tho increased poverty will no doubt assist further environmental degradation and pollution as it seems to now, as will resource extraction at the limits of technology.

Richard S Courtney

The Gray Monk:
At August 13, 2010 at 12:45 am you assert:
“Your paper highlights probably the most important issue all of humanity faces – we have roughly 4billion too many humans already.”
Has it occurred to you that you have the ability to reduce the overpopulation that you assert by removing yourself from existence?
Of course, that would only reduce the population by one, but it would be a demonstration that you mean what you say. And if all those who share your view were to do the same then the world would certainly be a better place.
Importantly, imposing your desire on yourself instead of calling for it to be imposed on others would certainly be an improvement to your present attitude.

The projection is overly simplistic – the extra billion people by 2030 will be too poor to buy much energy, whatever its source – and renewables are far too expensive for them. China’s growth is about 30% China Inc. – a branch of the US, EU and other sources of corporate finance making western goods cheaper so that western growth can putter along – but the whole global economy is unstable, and one factor is the oil-price to which all other energy sources are related one way or another.
Certainly demand in China, Brazil, Indonesia, India and Russia will increase – they can afford it, and they will consume their natural environment in the process – but the poor will be left out, just as they have been for the last 30 years – with 2 billion still without adequate clean water and sanitation. I would argue their best future is to turn away from the western mode of consumption and strengthen their indigenous ways, securing a stable ecology and community and protecting themselves from ‘development’ – length of life and dollar spending power is no indication of the quality of that life, and my travel in the ‘Third World’ quickly showed me just how vital and happy people could be in very limited material circumstances (and thats not to deny a great number are desperate and destitute – often because of the social disruption of war, corrupt government and displacement due to the global demand for commodities).

Kum Dollison

It is not only “quite likely” that finite fossil fuel resources will peak, it’s a dead-dog certainty.
Wind Does Work, especially when it’s combined with Solar, Biogas, or, best of all, both. Wind is, now, considered cheaper than Nuclear, and, unlike nuclear, its cost-curve is heading down, not up.
The cost of producing Solar panels is down in the $1.00/watt, range. The only reason solar is still relatively expensive is a shortage of certiified installers. As the number of these ramp up we will be seeing “installed” solar in the vicinity of $2.00/watt.
Finland gets 30% of their electricity from paper, and pulp mills. We could, easily, get 200 Gigawatts from “waste heat recovery” from Steel Mills, etc.
We will have 10 to 20 million gal/yr “cellulosic” ethanol plants in every county. These biorefineries will operate off Municipal Solid Waste (Fiberight has the cost of this down to $1.65/gal,) switchgrass (Genera, Poet projecting $2.00 or less/gal,) and forestry/ag waste. A Serious Co-Product of these biorefineries will be lignin, converted to biogas, to power 57% efficient Turbines which can be ramped up, and down quickly to follow wind, and solar.
This is all extremely simple stuff. And, actually, not very expensive.

Michael Schaefer

Not demand, but supply, availlability and pricing will define the future energy-consumption of mankind in the future.
The Third World can demand energy as much as it may – buf when there simply is none they can lay their hands on, or if the purchasing prices for said energy far exceed the Third World’s availlable income, there’s no ways in heaven they will ever rise their energy consumption to western-lifestyle levels – let alone, to US-lifestyle-levels.
So keeping the Third World poor is paramount to ascertain the First, Western World the future availlability of sufficient and affordable energy.
And that’s what western politicians were and still are all about, when dealing with the Third World.
It only remains to be seen, how emerging countries and people like those of China and India will react to that in the future.
I predict future energy wars looming in a not-too-distant future – the first of which are actually fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, already.

Crispin in Waterloo

I encourage everyone to have a look at this thesis by Willem Nel (Univ of Johannesburg) on ‘peak energy’. It is not perfect but it is pretty comprehensive and detailed. I agree that the unsuspected reserves of natural gas may change the picture. The idea that we can double the CO2 in the atmosphere at all, let alone in 100 years, is undermined by this detailed analysis of what energy reserves we have and where it comes from. Catastrophic predictions seem always to be based on the combustion of infinite carbon resources. They are simply not there.
The population of the planet is forecast to drop back to its present level by 2100 in the same reports that say it will rise to a peak by 2050. Let’s not repeat the 2050 figure in order to provide the most alarmist picture of future global needs. That is cherry picking. As populations develop their birth rate drops. In a more equitable world it will drop faster. That doesn’t mean we need carbon taxes, but it does mean reducing and eventually eliminating the naked exploitation of some regions by others that creates so much alarming poverty.

Richard S Courtney

Martin Brumby:
Considering present UK Energy Policy, at August 13, 2010 at 12:53 am you say:
“The only report of which I am aware that looks at this half-way logically is:-
Note that this is the projection of the generation needs for a developed economy (the UK) up to 2050. And their base case assumption is the rather fanciful one of energy consumption being capped at current levels.
Just check out what new energy infrastructure they say is needed if we are to strive to 80% CO2 reduction by 2050!”
I think you may want to read my item at
especially its Section 1 (p 3) and Section 14 (pp 13-19).
I hope this is of use and/or interest to you.

Robert of Ottawa

It makes nop sense to have coal energy production remain constant; it is the most abundent and cheapest source of energy.


So, I messed up with the link. Here it is in a form that stupid can do.

Evan Jones

I find the Gray Monk’s post appalling. The planet can easily support the six billion it has, and many more besides. Perhaps four times as many. Even more. In affluence and with little pressure on natural systems.
It all depends on how we manage ourselves.
I completely agree with pat. There is no practical limit to the amount of energy we can and will produce — provided only that we do not stupidly prevent ourselves (as we have done) through insane/inane, self-destructive regulations which achieve less than nothing and both directly and indirectly bring about incalculable harm.
(Yet, perhaps fusion will step in and prove the panacea.)


daunting as it seems when you’re dealing in thousands of “quads.”
The Gray Monk says:
August 13, 2010 at 12:45 am
“Your paper highlights probably the most important issue all of humanity faces – we have roughly 4billion too many humans already. […]”
Give me a list of their names so we can arange who gets whacked….
(……. reading the list of 4 billion names provided by The Gray Monk………)
What?!?! Your name isn’t on the list?
Wait up! I see the pattern here. Only OTHER people’s names are on the list.


“The overall population is rising–it will be about 8.1 billion in 2030, the equivalent of adding another China to the planet. ”
I can’t read the future but from the past I know man has had a way of averting doomsday projections of mass starvation due to Malthusian logic, peak oil etc. I can’t help but wonder and hope that by that date nuclear fusion might have seen a breakthrough (with one breakthrough reported last year), or an innovative process that causes solar panels to drop greatly in price, or some new found source of energy. From here to 2030 I find it inconceivable that science won’t make any progress in the above or other energy related area. Few people could forsee the agricultural revolution in 1945.


In 1945 few people could forsee the agricultural revolution.

Evan Jones

Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?
Which is why they are the poster-boy on how to self immolate one’s economy to no material gain.

mikael pihlström

evanmjones says:
August 13, 2010 at 2:41 am
Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?
Which is why they are the poster-boy on how to self immolate one’s economy to no material gain.
please explain how that ‘immolation’ works … in relation to renewables?

Wolfgang Flamme
Mike Core

There is a limiting factor that you must take into account and that is Peak Oil and Gas.
And of course, coal.
Mike Core
[REPLY – Peak Oil: Peek and ye shall find. ~ Evan]


For those who may not have seen it, a partial translation of a book which gives China’s view on CAGW and therefore energy. They’ll be doing their own thing on the energy front as will the developing world. It’s their only way out of poverty.

Mike Core

There is a limiting factor that you must take into account and that is Early Peak Oil and Gas.
And of course, coal.
Mike Core

Alan the Brit

For the Grey Monks’ information.
The world produces enough food each year to support 8-9 billion people (thanks to MODERN agricultural techniques among other things). The issue is of distribution not production. We have a plentiful supply of fossil fuels, & even natural gas (not a fossil fuel according to certain politicians in the Virignian Colonies, one N. Pelosi I believe), & nuclear power generation. Fossil fuels take millions of years to develop through metamorphosis, therefore it is highly likely that billions of tons more is available for future generations, it’s just a matter of accessing it safely, viably, & ecologically soundly. I also understand that the current population of the Earth could fit on the Isle of Wight (UK) with room to spare, although it might become rather smelly after a few days! We don’t need an unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, & unsackable self-enriching Global Government to solve man’s issues on the planet, just common sense! I seem to recall that the oil was supposed to have completely run out by now according to some “experts” back in the 1970s. Yet more is constantly being discovered. That fact alone must place a question mark over such experts abilities to crystal-ball gaze.
If the Grey Monk believes there are 4 billion too many people on the planet already, has he decided who they are & what he wants to do about them? If so could I see his list just to be safe?


Sorry, Evan, I’m with the Grey Monk on this. I have yet to see any evidence that the planet can support such numbers of people in the style to which we in the west have become accustomed. The much-derided Tommy Malthus pointed out the big problem centuries ago, as did the Club of Rome in their modelling exercise. It is simply that the amount of food that can be produced depends on the land area that can be used and the technology used to produce it and hence increases arithmetically (if you work twice as hard you can double it, then work twice as hard again to quadruple it, etc.). Population, on the other hand, increases geometrically, i.e. the numbers born depend on the numbers breeding, and so will inevitably outpace resources unless fecundity is reduced.
Interestingly, there seems much evidence at the moment that fecundity does in fact reduce with increasing wealth and particularly with educating women. Unfortunately, cultural norms vary slowly and in huge areas of the world women are not educated and, since the lead time is about 30 years (which is also the doubling time of the current human population), it cannot alone prevent an increase.
I hope few here would advocate any sort of ‘Final Solution’ to this, because it’s really not needed. The more humans there are, the more population pressure forces them in to sub-optimal areas where they are vulnerable to our randomly varying environment. For example, millions of people are currently suffering because they live on the slopes of rapidly-eroding newly-raised mountains and the rainfall this year is higher than average (as it is half the time). Hence the floods and rockslides which are quite normal for those conditions are killing the thousands forced to live in the valley bottoms instead of the higher ground. Similarly, many people live in areas where rainfall is normally very low (but variable). In the good years/decades there is enough food and so they, like any other lifeform, invest in breeding so there will be more ‘selfish genes’ to ensure that in the bad times at least some of their descendants might survive. In addition to such entirely predictable hazards there are the rarer volcanic eruptions and meteorite strikes which will hit at random no matter where you have ‘chosen’ to live. Such is life.
The other thing to consider is biological warfare. No, I don’t mean chucking dead horses over the walls, but the incessant fighting between micro-organisms and hosts. In the last 50 years, man has dramatically increased the death rate against pathogens with a huge variety of chemicals. However, this application of selection pressure merely means that pathogens evolve to deal with the problem and since their generation times can be as little as 20 minutes, we are going to lose in the long run. Already bacteria immune to virtually everything we can throw at them are appearing, and we now have huge numbers of people with virtually no natural immunity. I don’t think the human population will reach those levels.


The simple takeaway is energy is life. Internally, for humans it’s mostly ATP-ADP cycle. Externally, it’s how food is grown, fertilizers made and continues to those sitting at a energy consuming computer-thingies reading, typing, viewing, playing games, watching their favorite show and transporting oneself to their favorite demonstration while recording it on their favorite vid camera/iphone.
There is another very obvious, albeit modest, takeaway of cheap energy equals prosperity. Which, of course, is the only proven method that leads to cleaner environments. At some “tipping” point with prosperity groups of people decide that there is enough prosperity viz environment and we see clamps put on energy and, in turn, prosperity.
It’s not really a question of running out of energy. It’s all about whether we’ll use what we have and what time line you think is important. If you take the view of needing a few billion years supply of energy you drop all drilling, wind farm eco-disaster, ethonol, etc., and simply start building nuclear energy plants at the rate of a few per month. Without much mental effort, you can easily recover fissionable materials like uranium, thorium, etc., from the ground and oceans.
Then we simply manufacture hydrocarbons. The technology has been around since the 1930s along with sporatic improvements. If you’re interested Google it; if not, then imagine simply making dry ice for carbon, electrolysis for hydrogen and oxygen, freezing for nitrogen and a magic box that takes the hydrocarbon raw material and out pops pure gasoline, diesel, natural gas, methane, stuff for plastics, etc. We will always need hydrocarbons, if nothing else than to make your video display or until you invent an inter dimensional raw material portal and steal the stuff from some other universe. Manufacturing gasoline could even be phased out whenever that vaunted hydrogen fuel cell or the long extension cord is more cost effective.
If an emphasis is placed on nuke energy with it’s surplus energy used to produce hydrocarbons you end up with, by any standards today, limitless energy at a decreasing per unit cost over time. That means things like better reactors from self-contained-drop-into-Kenya-village ones through the traveling wave reactor just for starters. And you also get lots and lots of really good jobs, really good food and a really clean environment for China, Africa, India and all the third world. Even in the “Western” industrialized nations. After all, the really grave pollution issues are in the third world. Abundant energy, simply, lets you produce vastly more with less.
At least someone is pointing out the obvious about energy. We’ll let those that want to not have cheap, abundant energy go tell the African that drinks parasite infested water that they need to just keep up the good work so they can continue using their computers.

Ian W

We are already in a world where we are having food riots. If there is are early frosts in the grain producing regions of Canada and the mid-West together with the fires in Russia there could easily be a food shortage now. So far the world has managed to keep just ahead of the demand curve for food but only just and only because of the benign warm climate of the last 40 years. Had the weather remained cool Paul Ehrlich would have probably been right.
All the current pointers are for the weather to start going cooler. This will both increase demand for energy and reduce the amount of available food, as grow lines move equatorwards.
We are looking at the increasing probability of a cold world with no oil and insufficient food.

Evan Jones

please explain how that ‘immolation’ works … in relation to renewables?
Simple cost-benefit. The cost simply does not justify the amount of energy produced. The economic results are inevitable.


That is an oddly labeled chart. It SAYS “World Energy Demand – Long-term Energy Sources,” yet it nothing on it is about DEMAND. It is all about energy SOURCES.
I think it need to be re-labeled.


mindbuilder says:
August 13, 2010 at 12:27 am
“If it makes any difference, I expect that battery technology will have matured and electric cars will dominate over gas. ”
I dont think so. Not unless you find some place, a mine, or a special tree, where batteries grows and can be harvested. Like oil, or gas.(Show me the carbon footprint of the battery, the charging station, the powerplant providing the electricity, the high voltage power-lines….the…..the…..)
Or perhaps if the battery is actually a small nuclear reactor with a pluss and minus pole.
Just plug it into your car, and off you go! Forever!

mikael pihlström

pointman says:
August 13, 2010 at 2:56 am
For those who may not have seen it, a partial translation of a book which gives China’s view on CAGW and therefore energy. They’ll be doing their own thing on the energy front as will the developing world. It’s their only way out of poverty.
The book seems speculative. But you are certainly right on
“doing their own thing on the energy front”
1/ In the short term they will use any energy to sustain economic growth
and development. They will aggressively outcompete other nations for oil,
mines and land ownership abroad.
2/ They are well aware of the air pollution detoriation related to coal burning
3/ They have stated a target of 500 gigawatts of renewable-energy capacity
by 2020 — nearly one third of the nation’s projected power capacity
for that year.
4/ Last year they invested nearly half of total global renewables investments,
for instance they have about 40% of global photovoltaics production
5/ Already experiencing severe water shortage in the plains of NW China,
I am convinced that they take AGW seriously.
The impications for USA, you can figure out yourselves


This is a thought provoking article but too narrow in scope. What is the daily quad output of the Sun? It has been suggested that in 40-50 years it will be feasible to capture solar energy via a satellite array beaming constant energy directly into terrestrial energy systems. Right now this is quite speculative. Yet it serves little use to project energy consumption decades into the future without also projecting technological change possibilities. But perhaps this has been done elsewhere. If so, it would be useful to reference it.


evanmjones August 13, 2010 at 3:46 am
Matt Ridley illustrates your point beautifully about 6 mins into this piece.

I just want to say, yet again, that this forum generates a very high quality of discussion–even from those whom I disagree with. As great as the postings are, I often get as much or more from the comments.
On this thread, I was about to make some comments (as I am an economic historian by training), but I found that others had articulated the same or similar thoughts. I think you’re doing a darned good job when you can make me feel like I have little new to add to the discussion! 😀
I think everyone involved here (from Anthony all the way down to the most occasional commenters) deserves kudos.


Some points to consider: A universal “One Child Policy” would still require 5 generations (100+yrs) t0 return the population to present levels.
A growing population requires a growing food supply, but also requires a growing living space, mutually exclusive solutions. Modern, hi tech food production requires hi energy input, not easily accomplished by renewable energy converted to battery power. A modern combine does the work of 80 men working manually.
One gallon of oil provides the energy to pump 100 gallons from a well. One gallon of oil provides the energy to squeeze only 4 gallons out of oil shale.
If the entire US corn crop were turned to EtOH for fuel each year, it would conserve about 2% of the world’s demand for automotive fuel. Keeping our tires properly inflated will save us about 5%.


Whenever presented with numbers, instinctively, I go for the napkin to do some internal consistency checks. From the stipulated numbers the per capita world consumption is about 0.1 Billion BTU (assuming we are talking American mill, bill, trill and quad and not the British kind). In the breathless scenarios being thought of here, we are talking 170(Danish) – 330(US) Billion BTU. Are there some zeros missing on my napkin? How do we get the average to go up by orders of magnitude in 20-40 years?

mikael pihlström

evanmjones says:
August 13, 2010 at 3:46 am
please explain how that ‘immolation’ works … in relation to renewables?
Simple cost-benefit. The cost simply does not justify the amount of energy produced. The economic results are inevitable.
Uniot costs for renewables are going down. For fossils they will
presumably rise. Renewables are subsidized, but so are, perversely,