economy moving. Optimists seem to be of two minds. Some note that for the past 150 years the world’s energy system has been “decarbonizing” as it switched from wood to coal to oil, and now to natural gas. These optimists see an inevitable, technologically driven migration to a hydrogen economy. Other optimists note that the world’s resources of unconventional oil (heavy oils, oil sands, shale oil, and even coal) are vast in comparison to conventional oil and gas, and point out that the heavy oil of Venezuela and the oil sands of Canada are already being economically developed. In effect, they see a “recarbonization,” since these unconventional resources are either more carbon intensive or will require far more energy to produce and refine.


Nicola Pochettino, Senior Energy Analyst, International Energy Agency1

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2004 paints a sobering picture of how the global energy system is likely to evolve from now to 2030. If governments stick with the policies in force as of mid-2004 (Reference Scenario), the world’s energy needs will be almost 60 percent higher in 2030 than they are now. Fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global energy mix, meeting most of the increase in overall energy use. Oil will remain the single largest fuel in the primary energy mix. Among the fossil fuels, demand for natural gas will grow most rapidly, mainly due to strong demand from power generators. The share of coal will fall slightly, but coal will remain the leading fuel for generating electricity. Nuclear power’s share will decline during the Outlook period.

Global primary oil demand is projected to grow by 1.6 percent per year to 2030, continuing to grow most quickly in developing countries. Most of the increase in world oil demand will come from the transport sector. Oil will face little competition from other fuels in road, sea, and air transportation during the projection period. Huge investments will be needed.

If current government policies do not change, energy-related emissions of CO2 will grow marginally faster than energy use. CO2 emissions will be more than 60 percent higher in 2030 than now. Transport will consolidate its position as the second-largest sector for CO2 emissions worldwide. More than half the increase in the sector’s emissions will occur in developing countries, where car ownership is expected to grow rapidly.

These trends, from our Reference Scenario, are, however, not unalterable. More vigorous government action could steer the world onto a markedly different energy path. This Outlook presents an Alternative Scenario, which analyses the global impact of environmental and energy-security policies that countries around the world are already considering, as well as the effects of faster deployment of energy-efficient technologies. In this scenario, global energy demand and CO2 emissions are significantly lower than in our Reference Scenario. Dependence on imported energy in major consuming countries is also


OECD/IEA, 2005. This summary is used with permission from the IEA, an autonomous agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement