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AB 2000 studies

Alain Boublil Blog


Energy : 2019 results and prospects for the "world to come"

In June, the oil group BP publishes energy production and consumption statistics for the previous year by sources and by countries. That allows to having a precise and definitive idea of the world situation, of CO2 emissions, of the evolution of the repartition between different fossil fuels, renewable and nuclear power and especially of the mid-term trends which are appearing. They allow to dismiss many wrong ideas regarding energy transition and to carry a judgment on the different proposals which are circulating in this domain.

The first observation is about energy consumption which, as a whole, is not failing, even if it may fluctuate according to the economic situation of the countries or to temperature variations. During the last ten years, consumption increased by a 1% yearly rate, an average which results from the stagnation in developed countries members of OECD and a 3% growth rate in the other countries. In emerging ones and with the exception of some south-east Asia countries, the energy consumption increase was lower than economic growth, which, so, is more sober than some are used to affirm. China and India cases are, regarding this point, revealing. With growth rates respectively of 7.5% and 6.5% during this ten years period, the increase of the energy consumption was, on a yearly average, of only 3.8 and 5.2%.

The second observation is about supply abundance and its high fluctuations among countries. Regarding oil, the major point is the increase of the American production with, since 2012, the exploitation of shale oil reserves. Between 2009 and 2019, the American production came from 5.3 to 12.2 million barrels per day, giving to the country the position of the number one producer in the world, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia whose productions oscillated around 11 and 10 million barrels per day. The production has also increased in the Gulf countries, which has allowed to compensating by large the exhaustion of some reserves, for instance in the North Sea and in Mexico and the diminutions provoked by political instability as in Iran, in Libya or in Venezuela.

A similar observation can be done regarding natural gas which is the fossil fuel which has known the strongest growth, without generating quotations rise. On ten years, the production has grown by 2.5% a year, which is twice faster than the oil production. American shale resources have contributed to that along with the new opportunity offered to the country to export its production through the building of liquefaction plants. Two other factors have made easier the natural gas ascent, atop of the new abundance created by American discoveries. Investments in pipelines and technological progress in the transport on methane tankers have made this energy more available. Its price has allowed to it to be competitive to produce power. American consumption has increased by 37% and the Chinese one has been multiplied by three. To the opposite, in Europe, it has stagnated and it has not yet increased in India due to the lack of infrastructures allowing to having access to the resource.

The natural gas ascent has mainly been achieved to the detriment of coal to supply thermal power plants. It came along with geopolitical consequences which are not without remaining us what’s happened with oil during the whole Twentieth century. The China supply through Siberian pipelines has been a factor of the rapprochement between the two countries. The lasting tensions about pipelines construction in the North Sea, to have access to Russian natural gas through the two Nordstream pipelines or, to the opposite, to get rid of it, as what Poland and Norway will do thanks to the Baltic Pipe are an issue of contest with the U.S., Russia and even between European countries. Erdogan President offensive in Libya or in Syria as his difficult relations with Egypt or Greece are directly linked to Turkey will to play a strategic role in the exploitation of natural gas in Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

If coal share has fallen in the U.S. and, in a lower proportion in the European Union, the recourse to the fossil fuel highly emitting CO2 and particles is not anymore increasing in China since 2013. But the country which alone represents half of the world consumption is still continuing to build coal-thermal power plants or to finance some in foreign countries, as in Serbia. To the opposite, in India, growth is remaining very strong. Coal use has increased in ten years by 60% to reach 12% of world consumption. In all the countries the development of renewable has been fast (1600 TWh in ten years) but that has not compensated the increase of electricity consumption during the same period (7 000 TWh), and, due to its intermittent character, that development has not had, as a consequence, the closure of a significant number of polluting production plants. At last, globally, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants productions remained stable.

So, the objective of stabilization or even of a reduction of CO2 emissions is far from being reached. If the emission growth is slowing not to reach more than 1.1% per year for ten years, disparities between zones are still very high. The European Union with 10% has receded by 1.5% per year as an average; the U.S., with 14.5% of the emissions has reduced them by 1.1% per year thanks to the transfer from coal to natural gas in their power plants. But, regarding their per capita emissions, the country is still by large above the average and has still a lot of efforts to do. China, with 29% of the world emissions has slowed their growth but with a 2.6% yearly growth rate the country is still highly contributing to the climate warming. At last, the main worry is coming from India and Indonesia which are generating each year emissions increasing by more than 5% and which still have a major economic catching up to achieve, which is highly energy consuming. They already represent near 10% of the world emissions.

And what about France, in that context ? Its emissions have fallen by 15% in ten years and its per capita level is one of the smallest among developed countries, half the German one and  four times lower than the U.S. one. We contribute for less than 1% of the total. The climate phenomenon being global, so it must not be overestimated the consequences of the actions in our country. And when we look at each emission sources, it is observed that the diesel use is the most important one. Its recourse, it must never be forgotten, was encouraged during the first “Grenelle de l’Environnement meetings” in 2008. To the opposite, emission generated by air transportation only represents near 2%. To stigmatize this transportation mode under the pretext it contributes to 2% of 1% of the climate warming would make use smiling if it did not carry heavy economic and social consequences.

The fight against climate warming is a case too much important to be left to amateurs even if they are of good faith. It would be judicious that the persons who have been selected by drawing lots to make proposals in this domain for the “world to come” and that these who will be in charge of putting them into practice make the effort to inform themselves.           


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