Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Run Twice As Fast

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

                                        Lewis Carroll

In the energy discourse there is lots of hype. By the way things are being reported we may get the impression that wind and solar power are just about to dominate the energy markets worldwide. Thus, a dose of reality is needed.

If the final objective in our quest to stop global warming is to reduce carbon emissions, then we are not only not advancing, we are actually going backwards. In other words, every year we seem to be breaking a new record in CO2 emissions. 

Why is this?

Because our global energy consumption is growing so fast that we literally have to run as fast as we can increasing our low carbon energy sources just to stay in place. 

Note: all graphs below are from the EIA International Energy Outlook 2013 Report. A link to the full report can be found at the bottom of this page.

Since our energy consumption is still growing at a fast pace, in order to stabilize (let alone reduce) or carbon emissions, the low carbon sources (hydro, nuclear, sun, wind, geothermal, etc.), would need to supply all the growth in energy requirements. This is not happening, not even close. Actually most of the increase in our energy supply is coming from fossil fuels themselves.

That is why our total emissions look this way:

With the exception of the years 2008-9 when the world experienced a serious recession, we seem to be breaking a new carbon emission record every year and it is forecast to continue that way until (at least) 2040.

As we may see in Figure 1, the challenge is mainly the increase in energy requirements in the Non-OECD countries.

Even though electricity is only a fraction of our total energy use, it is the most fitted to being generated by low carbon energy. However, even in this segment the record, so far, is not precisely sterling:

It may FEEL like we are running to a lower carbon future but we are actually badly falling behind. We need to run much faster just to stay even in the climate race and if we want to begin reducing our carbon emissions, then our top priority should be to "run twice as fast as that" in the deployment of low carbon sources.

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