13. How can growing energy demand be met safely and efficiently?

Worldenergy demand could double in just 20 years. Without major technologicalchanges, fossil fuels will provide 81% of primary energy demand by 2030. If so,then large-scale carbon capture, storage, and reuse should become a toppriority. The IEA projects oil demand to grow nearly 40% from 2006 to 2030 andestimates that investments of $22 trillion would be required to meet demand.Some argue that oil production is peaking and will end in 40–70 years. Thedramatic jump in oil, gas, and coal prices is making renewable sources morecompetitive; renewable energy investments reached $100 billon in 2007 andcumulatively could be $7 trillion by 2030. Over 65 countries have nationalrenewable energy goals. Currently only 3.4% of world electricity is generatedby renewable sources; 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and 2.4billion still rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, whilebillions of gallons of petroleum are wasted in traffic jams around the world.

Given theexponential growth of cars in China and India, decarbonizing transport fuelsshould be a global priority. Prices for electric car batteries and capacitorsare low enough to make fully electric cars competitive, and cars havesuccessfully run on compressed air. Massive saltwater irrigation of coasts cangrow halophyte plants and algae to produce 190,000 liters of biofuels perhectare per year instead of letting less-efficient freshwater biofuelproduction (now 4% of global gasoline consumption) have catastrophic effects onfood supply and prices. Space solar power satellites could manage base-loadelectricity on a global basis, improving efficiencies and transmitting energyto electric grids, providing sustainable abundant electricity for the world.Drilling to hot rock (two to five kilometers down) could make geothermal energyavailable where conventional geothermal has not been possible. A total of 438nuclear reactors are operating today; 38 are under construction and more than300 are either on order or being proposed. For nuclear energy to eliminate thegreenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, about 2,000 nuclear power plants(average 1 gigawatt) would have to be built at $5–15 billion per plant over 15years—and possibly an additional 8,000 plants beyond that to 2050. There is notenough U235 to supply them, so thorium breeder reactors would have to be built,which raises proliferation concerns. Another Chernobyl-type accident or nuclearhijacking could halt expansion of nuclear power.

Innovationsare accelerating, such as concentrator photovoltaics that dramatically reducecosts; waste heat from power plants, human bodies, and microchips to produceelectricity; genomics to create hydrogen-producing photosynthesis; solar energyto produce hydrogen; microbial fuel cells to generate electricity; and compactflorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes to significantly conserveenergy, as would nanotubes that conduct electricity. Solar farms can focussunlight atop towers with Stirling engines and other generators. Estimates forthe potential of wind energy continue to increase, but maintenance problemsgrow. Plastic nanotech photovoltaics printed on buildings and other surfacescould cut costs and increase efficiency. The transition to a hydrogeninfrastructure may be too expensive and too late to affect climate change,while plug-in hybrids, flex-fuel, electric, and compressed air vehicles couldprovide alternatives to petroleum-only vehicles sooner. The world’s firstmass-market plug-in hybrid is coming out later this year from China, and itslargest car maker, Chery, plans that half of its cars will be hybrids by 2010,while 40% of its cars will be for export. Unused nighttime power productioncould supply electric and plug-in hybrid cars. National unique all-electric carprograms are being implemented in Denmark and Israel, with discussions beingheld in 30 other countries.

A globalcollective intelligence described in Chapter 5 could provide the overviews anddetails necessary to create more coherent energy policy and better informedconsumer choices. Meanwhile, approximately 1,000 coal plants, with productionlives of 40 years, are in some stage of planning or construction around theworld without CO2 capture. Environmental movements may try to close down suchplants, just as they stopped growth in nuclear energy 30 years ago. The worldneeds coherent energy policies.

Challenge13 will be addressed seriously when the total energy production fromenvironmentally benign processes surpasses other sources for five years in arow, and when atmospheric CO2 additions drop for at least five years.


Africa: Thecontinent’s electric production could double via the proposed $80-billion damon the Congo River, with some exports to Europe. Algeria plans to export 6,000megawatts of solar-generated power to Europe by 2020. By 2050, 10–25% ofEurope’s electricity needs could be met by North African solar thermal plants.With support from development partners, African leaders agreed to invest $10billion annually between 2009 and 2014 in renewable energy.

Asia andOceania: Japan plans to develop a working space solar power system in orbit by2030; such systems could meet the world’s electricity requirements indefinitelywithout nuclear or GHG emissions. It also plans to have 5 million fuel cellcars by 2020. China and India account for 45% of the increase in world energydemand in IAEA’s 2030 reference scenario. Car sales in China may exceed 10million during 2008 and could pass the U.S. sales by 2025. India’s $3,000 carmay accelerate car ownership in developing countries. China is the world’ssecond largest oil consumer, plans to quadruple its nuclear capacity by 2020(while 66% of its energy comes from coal today), and is expected to become theworld’s largest producer of photovoltaics in 2008. The UAE plans to invest $15billion in new energy sources and announced a $22-billion plan to build thefirst zero-carbon city. The Philippines gets 27% of its electricity fromgeothermal sources. Australia plans to outlaw incandescent light bulbs by 2010in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs and to share its wind and geothermalenergy technologies in Asia.

Europe:Europe plans to build 50 new coal plants in five years, expects 21–28% of itselectricity from wind by 2030 (up from 3.7% today, which powers 60 million homes),but is increasingly dependent on Russian energy. Germany produces half theworld’s solar electricity and could nearly double its solar energy industry by2010. Sweden cut its carbon emissions by 9% between 1990 and 2006 while itseconomy grew 44% in fixed prices. Russia plans to have 25% of its energy fromnuclear sources by 2020.

LatinAmerica: Costa Rica plans to become carbon-neutral by 2021. Brazil producesethanol for 60 cents per gallon, meeting 40% of its automotive needs, and hasdiscovered over 10 billion barrels of oil offshore. Venezuela’s heavy oilreserves could use today’s technologies, giving it larger reserves than SaudiArabia.

NorthAmerica: General Motors will mass-market an electric car in 2010. “Off-peak”electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84% of the 220million U.S. vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics. Recycling wasteheat from nuclear power plants to home air conditioners and even body heat torecharge batteries could reduce CO2 by 10–20% in the U.S. Project Green Freedomis developing electrochemical separation of carbon from the air to producemethanol and gasoline. Over 100 of the 151 coal-fired power plants proposed inthe U.S. were either refused licenses or abandoned in 2007 or continue to becontested in the courts. Wind projects accounted for 35 percent of all newelectricity-generating capacity added in the U.S. in 2007. Quebec and BritishColumbia have introduced carbon taxes. Canada is not expected to meet its Kyototreaty obligations mainly due to Alberta’s development of oil tar sands, whichalso jeopardizes forests. Two-thirds of the U.S. refining capacity expansion isbeing tailored for “dirty oil” from tar sands.