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The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

What You Need To Know About Energy



Our society and economy rely on energy that is available when and where it is needed, is generally affordable at stable prices, and can be counted on in the near future. At present, that is the case. 

In 2013, U.S. domestic sources satisfied 84% of the nation’s total energy demand. And although in 2014 the United States imported approximately 27% of its oil, more than one-third of that came from Canada (more than all the countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries combined). Net imports in 2015 averaged fewer than 5 million barrels per day—out of a total consumption in 2014 of 19.1 million barrels per day. In addition, the United States is poised to become a net exporter of natural gas. By 2021, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections indicate that America will become a net petroleum exporter.

By 2021, EIA projections indicate that America will become a net petroleum exporter.

The EIA projects that U.S. energy consumption will grow only modestly during the next quarter-century, averaging about 0.3% per year. This assumes a marginal decline in energy consumption in the transportation sector and adoption of more energy-efficient technologies and policies.

Coupled with ongoing improvements in fuel economy, those conditions have prompted substantial optimism about America’s near-term ability to meet its energy needs without undue reliance on foreign sources.

The current situation, however, does not guarantee U.S. energy security in the future, for several reasons. Much of the dramatic recent increase in oil and gas production has entailed mining practices that some environmentalists regard as unacceptable. Public opinion about these practices may shift over time and government policy could change. 

Moreover, the anticipated pace of growth in developing countries, though uncertain, is trending strongly upward, placing greater demand on global supplies of fossil fuels and other energy resources. In the near term, the EIA projects that the world demand for petroleum (now around 93 million barrels per day) will increase about 1.5% per year through 2016. The International Energy Agency estimates that worldwide energy demand will increase 37% by 2040. In Southeast Asia alone, the total energy demand is projected to rise 80% by 2040, with fossil fuels making up four-fifths of the region’s energy mix.

Long-term projections, however, are extremely difficult because of the sheer number of unpredictable political and economic factors that influence global markets. Disruptive military actions and regime changes can occur on short-time scales. And national economies are increasingly interconnected. As a result, all countries—the United States included—will remain vulnerable to energy shocks. 

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