- The International Energy Agency (IEA) has become an outlier, projecting a peaking of global fossil fuel demand by 2030, when all evidence and other modelers show the world’s fossil fuel demand growing.
- The IEA puts its faith in the ability of wind, solar and electric vehicles to replace fossil fuels, when in reality there are struggles in each sector.
- Wind and solar power are facing much higher costs, higher interest rates and more public dissatisfaction with the costs of its deployment.
- IEA expects U.S. sales of electric vehicles in 2030 to be 50 percent when U.S. auto manufacturers are slowing down their EV development in response to slower-than-expected growth in sales of electric vehicles, among other factors.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2023 makes assumptions in its Stated Policies Case (base scenario) that results in forecasts that are very different than those other modelers are producing. For instance, IEA has world fossil fuel demand peaking in 2030, and then declining due mostly to lower coal demand. Fossil fuel demand in the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) International Energy Outlook continues increasing through 2050 where it is 18 percent higher than fossil fuel demand in 2022 and supplying 70 percent of the world’s energy. IEA’s forecast for world liquids demand peaks in 2030 at 104.5 million barrels per day and slowly declines; EIA’s is higher at 105.5 million barrels per day and increases thereafter to 121.5 million barrels per day in 2050. And, OPEC’s 2030 liquids demand forecast is for 112 million barrels per day—7.5 million barrels per day more than IEA’s forecast.
IEA expects U.S. electric vehicle sales in 2030 to be 50 percent of the market due to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act incentives, while EIA projects world EV sales at just 36 percent of the market, acknowledging that China and Western Europe are the biggest EV markets. GM recently put its electric Silverado pickup truck expansion on hold, and Ford put expansion of its Lightning on hold. Both electric pickups are losing money, with Ford losing $60,000 per vehicle. GM is moderating electric vehicle production to protect pricing, adjust to slower near-term growth in demand, and implement engineering efficiency and other improvements that will make vehicles less expensive to produce, and more profitable. Ford reported losing $4.5 billion on electric vehicle production this year, an increase from the previously projected $3 billion loss.
Has IEA become a propaganda agency, forecasting what the Biden Administration and Europe’s politicians want and hoping that the world believes it?
IEA Rationale for Liquids Demand
The IEA rationalizes its forecast for liquids consumption due to the “astounding rise in electric vehicle sales” which is now affecting oil demand for road transport. While liquids demand in petrochemicals, aviation and shipping continues to grow up to 2050 in IEA’s forecast, that growth is not enough to offset the decline in demand for road transport, along with the declines from the power and buildings sectors.
IEA‘s Forecast for Oil Supply
In its base scenario, IEA expects U.S. tight oil output to increase by 2 million barrels per day between 2022 and 2030, to about 9.5 million barrels per day. Soon after, it begins to fall reaching about 8.5 million barrels per day by 2050. Other major oil supplies come from Brazil and Guyana, with the latter increasing output to 2 million barrels per day by the mid-2030s. IEA expects OPEC production to increase by 1 million barrels per day by 2030, as African members’ contributions fall by 1.5 million barrels per day. IEA expects OPEC’s share of global oil production to increase from 36 percent in 2022 to 42 percent in 2050. It expects Russian oil production to fall by around 3.5 million barrels per day between 2022 and 2050 “as it struggles to maintain output from existing fields or to develop large new ones.”
EIA expects U.S. oil production to increase by 1.5 million barrels per day by 2030 and remain fairly constant thereafter. It sees Russian oil production holding fairly constant through 2050, and for OPEC to lose market share by 2030 and then increase to 38 percent of the market by 2050–lower than the 42 percent share that IEA is projecting.
Clearly, even oil companies do not accept IEA’s forecast as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, the two largest U.S. oil companies, recently committed to spend more than $50 billion each to buy smaller companies in deals that would let them produce more oil and natural gas for decades.
IEA’s View of New “Clean” Technology by 2030
According to the World Energy Outlook, the phenomenal rise of clean energy technologies such as solar, wind, electric cars and heat pumps is reshaping how everything is powered from factories and vehicles to home appliances and heating systems. By 2030, IEA expects almost 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide; solar PV generating more electricity than the entire U.S. power system does currently; renewables’ share (including hydro) of the global electricity mix nearing 50 percent, up from around 30 percent today; heat pumps and other electric heating systems outselling fossil fuel boilers globally; and three times as much investment going into new offshore wind projects than into new coal- and gas-fired power plants.
EIA, however, sees the transition vastly different. By 2030, EIA expects almost twice as many electric cars on the road worldwide (that’s far less than a factor of 10); solar PV generating 80 percent of the electricity that the entire U.S. power system does currently (not more than); and renewables’ share of the global electricity mix nearing 40 percent (not 50 percent), including hydroelectric generation. Further, offshore wind is having serious problems in the United States with offshore wind operators paying fines rather than continuing with their projects as most East Coast states will not accept the much higher bids that the companies want. And, in the Gulf of Mexico, the United States received only one bid for offshore wind development. Even in the U.K., the latest offshore wind lease sale had no takers.
Wind and solar are facing huge headwinds, with projects worldwide in serious jeopardy due to rampant inflation, supply chain difficulties and higher interest rates. Politicians who have forced these forms of energy on the public are now facing consumer dissatisfaction with much higher energy bills attributable to their introduction into the systems. For example, the U.K.’s wind operators have promised no new wind farms will be built offshore unless electricity prices rise 70 percent.
IEA expects renewables to contribute 80 percent of new power generation capacity to 2030 under current policy settings, with solar accounting for more than half of the expansion. But, IEA believes that its base scenario accounts for only a fraction of solar’s potential because the world is set to have manufacturing capacity for more than 1,200 gigawatts of solar panels per year by the end of the decade, but is projected to actually deploy only 500 gigawatts in 2030. IEA claims that if the world were to reach deployment of 800 gigawatts of new solar PV capacity by the end of the decade, it would lead to a further 20 percent reduction in coal-fired power generation in China in 2030 compared with a scenario based on today’s policy settings and electricity generation from coal and natural gas across Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East would be a quarter lower.
Those ae questionable assumptions. First, EIA projects that solar PV will double its global capacity by 2030, adding over 1,000 gigawatts or about 130 gigawatts a year between 2022 and 2030. That’s far less than the 500 gigawatts IEA is projecting. Further, China and India are deploying renewable energy as complements to its coal generating capacity, not substitutes. Both countries want affordable and reliable energy for national security and for improving the living standards of its residents, and both countries generate much more electricity from coal than they do from wind and solar power.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions
IEA expects global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to peak by the mid 2020’s, while EIA expects global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to increase through 2050 and to be 15 percent greater by then.
IEA’s World Energy Outlook’s base scenario almost makes a farce out of energy modeling and forecasting as it assumes that countries will adhere to announced plans regardless what is best for their national security and economic growth and what current trends are indicating. The current geopolitical situation should tell IEA and the Western politicians that are pushing net zero carbon programs that all fuel types are needed. That is why both China and India are adding coal plants while they are also building renewable and nuclear generating plants.