The US Energy Information Administration’s latest “Short-Term Energy Outlook“ includes a wealth of data for the last few years presented in graphic form, often including predictions for the next year or so.
The impact of Covid is clear, with reduced energy use in 2020. EIA says 2021 is looking much better. Here is their basic finding:
“The October Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) remains subject to heightened levels of uncertainty because mitigation and reopening efforts related to COVID-19 continue to evolve. Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in energy demand and supply patterns in 2020 and will continue to affect these patterns in the future. This STEO assumes U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 4.4% in the first half of 2020 from the same period a year ago. It assumes that GDP will rise beginning in the third quarter of 2020, and will grow 3.5% year-over-year in 2021.”
Coal took the biggest hit, but is expected to rebound. In addition to reduced demand, coal mining is labor intensive. Coal’s forecast share of electricity generation falls from 24% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 and then returns to 24% in 2021. Natural gas prices are expected to rise as well, causing more coal use. Gas prices have been very low.
They say “EIA expects total U.S. coal production in 2020 to be 525 million short tons (MMst), compared with 705 MMst in 2019, a 26% decrease. COVID-19 and efforts to mitigate it along with reduced demand from the U.S. electric power sector amid low natural gas prices have contributed to mine idling and mine closures. EIA expects production to rise to 625 MMst in 2021, up 19% from 2020. This forecast increase reflects rising demand for coal from U.S. electricity generators because of higher natural gas prices compared with 2020.”
Note that we still burn well over half a billion tons of coal a year. Forecasts of the death of coal are very premature. Our biggest source of juice by far is a mix of coal and gas, which changes with prices.
There is also a lot of data related to that pandemic of green stupidity, the Green New Deal. Here are a few examples.
Wind is still a small source of power and solar is tiny. Both show great growth numbers but that is because there is so little to start with. By way of scale, here are some comparisons.
Wind power generation now equals hydro, at about 7% of all power. Solar is almost in last place, tied with biodiesel. Only biowaste produces less power. Burning wood is still a bigger source of juice than solar. Meanwhile nuclear is chugging along at just over 20%.
In short, switching to all wind and solar basically means completely replacing all of our present sources of electricity. If we then throw in switching all vehicles and space heating to electricity, we not only have to replace our present sources of power, we have to nearly double them.
Speaking of space heating, EIA lists the number of homes by heat source. Fossil fuels dominate, especially in the colder regions, which require the most heat.
For example, in the frigid Northeast there are about 18 million homes burning natural gas, fuel oil, or propane, with just 3.5 million heating with juice. In the cold Midwest there are about 20 million on fossil and just 6 million electric. Only in the balmy South does electricity beat fossil fuels.
All told there are over 70 million homes that would have to be electrified. At an average cost of, say, $10,000 each that is over $700 billion. Plus the cost of a new grid and power generation to supply all that new juice.
The above is just a peek at the 50+ pages of EIA data, most of it in easy to read charts and tables. The good news is that they forecast a steady Covid recovery. Plus there is a lot to tell us what an enormous waste the Green New Deal would be.
David Wojick, Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy. For origins see
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