Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Economist: The World Gets Back to Burning

Following on from our notice - late last month - of worrying reports from the IAE regarding rising carbon emissions worldwide, The Economist's Schumpeter (Business and Management blogger) has now produced his own assessment of this trend, based this time on BP's own figures:
Not since 1973 has world energy use increased by as much, in percentage terms, as it did in 2010. According to BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy, published today, 2010’s energy consumption was up by 5.6% on the year before. In part this is thanks to recovery from the economic crisis; in part it is down to the longer-term shift in economic activity towards emerging economies, which are less efficient in their energy use.

Robust growth was seen in all regions and in almost all types of energy use: the world consumed more of every main fuel bar one than it had in any previous year. Consumption of oil, which accounts for 34% of the world’s primary energy by BP’s calculations, rose by 3.1%. Coal, at 30% the number two fuel, was up by 7.6%, growing faster than at any time since 2003. Consumption of gas, which contributes 24%, was up by 7.4%, the biggest annual growth since 1984.
Schumpeter reviews the growth of other energy sources as well, but returns quickly to one of the main sources for the rising consumption of carbon-based fuels:
Most of China’s growth came from burning more coal: in 2000 China accounted for just under a third of world coal use; in 2010 a staggering 48.2%. Repeat that sort of expansion on a smaller scale for a number of other countries and you see why coal is going up in the global mix. You also see why the world’s energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions have grown even faster than its energy use—by 5.8% last year, on BP’s figures. That is the fastest growth since 1969.
Schumpeter is balanced but concerned in his final assessment, simultaneously pointing up why these particular statistics published today are now even more valuable:
That more energy is being used than ever before is a welcome sign of economic growth after a sharp downturn. That it is being used less efficiently than before, and producing record levels of carbon dioxide, is harder to welcome. A small mercy, though, is that there are numbers like BP’s available with which to perceive such unwelcome truths. Since the Anglo Iranian Oil Company, which would become BP a few years later, first put together its annual review 60 years ago—six typewritten pages, one graph, for internal use only—they have grown into a widely valued tool for economists and energy strategists in a field where reliable compendia of facts are rare, and growing rarer. In April the United States government announced that it would stop gathering the data on which various domestic energy indicators are based, reduce efforts to assure data quality in some others and cease publication of its International Energy Statistics. It is hard to see how, if such numbers have any value at all, that doesn’t represent a false economy.
Take the time to read the whole thing - a vision of the world we will all inherit!

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