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The dramatic drop in annual consumption – in 2013, the year to which the new research applies, it was down by more than 9% from its 2006 peak – reflects in part the continuing economic troubles in the eurozone, but also efforts taken by member states and businesses to cut energy use and improve efficiency.
According to just-released EU report, energy consumption in the EU hit a 20-year low in 2013. Despite the plunge, Europe remains heavily dependent on fuel imports, with more than half of energy needs supplied by production from abroad, including the Middle East and Norway.
The UK was one of the least dependent on imports of the biggest member states, buoyed by its offshore fossil fuel supplies, with 46.4% of primary energy coming from overseas. France, where nuclear reactors supply the vast majority of electricity needs, was also less dependent than the average, at 48% of supplies imported. Nuclear power accounted for the biggest slice of the EU’s own generation of electricity, with 29% of production. The total energy used across the bloc in 2013 was 1,666 million tonnes of oil equivalent, a widely used measure. The UK used just over 200 Mtoe in 2013, a substantial drop on its 210 Mtoe in 1990, after a rise in the early part of this century to 230 Mtoe. Some of the EU’s decline in consumption has come from progress made in energy efficiency among newer member states in eastern Europe, which inherited notoriously inefficient infrastructure from their years as part of the energy-rich Soviet bloc. According to The Guardian, “The discussion paper on the Energy Union, a plan for closer cooperation among member states on energy production, distribution and consumption, notes that it will be crucial for Europe’s economic competitiveness.
A boost to energy efficiency will also help the EU to meet its international pledge of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030. The International District Energy Association (IDEA) is a nonprofit association founded in 1909. This entry was posted in Industry News and tagged consumption, energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Union, EU, Eurostat, eurozone, imports, Mtoe, The Guardian.
Recent CommentsAftermarket Energy on GE Jenbacher to power urban district energy project in Melbourne, Australia????? ????? on Award Winning CHP System Serves Texas Medical CenterSteven C.
A homeowner's guide to saving energy, increasing comfort, and protecting the environment. We talk about the possibility of reducing fossil fuel use by 80% by 2050 and ramping up renewables at the same time, to help prevent climate change. Back in March, I showed you this graph in my post, World Energy Consumption since 1820 in Charts. We can use actual historical population amounts plus the UN’s forecast of population growth to 2050 to convert these amounts to per capita energy equivalents, shown in Figure 3, below.
In Figure 3, we see that per capita energy use has historically risen, or at least not declined. With the assumptions chosen, the world per capita energy consumption in 2050 is about equal to the world per capita energy consumption in 1905. I applied regression analysis to create what I would consider a best-case estimate of future GDP if a decrease in energy supply of the magnitude shown were to take place. World economic growth would average a negative 0.59% per year between now and 2050, meaning that the world would be more or less in perpetual recession between now and 2050. I personally think a voluntary worldwide reduction in fossil fuels is very unlikely, partly because voluntary changes of this sort are virtually impossible to achieve, and partly because I think we are headed toward a near-term financial crash, which is largely the result of high oil prices causing recession in oil importers (like the PIIGS). Historical estimates of energy consumption, population, and GDP are available for many years. We can see from Figure 4 that energy growth and GDP growth seem to move in the same direction at the same time. Energy in some form is needed if movement is to take place, or if substances are to be heated. I used the regression equation in Figure 5 to compute how much yearly economic growth can be expected between 2010 and 2050, if energy consumption drops by 50%.
The issue of whether we can really continue transitioning to a service economy when much less fuel in total is available is also debatable. The time periods in the Figure 5 regression analysis are of different lengths, with the early periods much longer than the later ones.
Population growth doesn’t look to be very great in Figure 4, since it shows annual averages, but we can see from Figure 7 (below) what a huge difference it really makes. Since we have historical data, it is possible to calculate an estimate based on regression analysis of the expected population change between 2010 and 2050. One of the issues in forecasting population using regression analysis is that in the period since 1820, we don’t have any examples of negative energy growth for long enough periods that they actually appear in the averages used in this analysis. While I did not use Energy per Capita in this forecast, we can look at historical growth rates in Energy per Capita, compared to growth rates in total energy consumed by society.
Figure 10 shows the corresponding regression analysis, with the highest correlation we have seen, an r squared equal to .87.
The renewable energy that is not fossil fuel dependent (mostly wood and other biomass that can be burned), is in danger of being used at faster than a sustainable rate, if fossil fuels are not available.
We can talk about rationing fuel, but in practice, rationing is extremely difficult, once the amount of fuel becomes very low. Angus Maddison, in the same data set that I used back to 1820, also gives an estimate of population and GDP back to 1 AD. Figure 11 shows that the use of fossil fuels since 1820 has allowed GDP to rise faster than population, for pretty much the first time.
If we compare the later time periods to the earlier ones, Figure 11 shows a pattern of increasing growth rates for both population and GDP. Looking back, the question seems to become: How many people can the world support, at what standard of living, with a given quantity of fuel? The opinions of the contributors to Financial Sense® do not necessarily reflect those of Financial Sense, its staff, or its parent company, PFS Group.
It may come as no surprise that large, energy-rich countries like the United States use the most energy, but how much per person?
This map includes energy consumption data from the International Energy Agency and includes electricity, as well as fossil and gathered fuels.
Energy is known as the “lifeblood of society ” because of the essential role it plays in sustaining life on Earth.
Putting energy’s “capacity for work” to use in solving the most basic of human needs – feeding, clothing and transporting people, as well as protecting them from enemies and the elements – has meant applying human ingenuity to the myriad of challenges posed by life itself.
By the middle of the 10th century, the first watermills in Western Europe were grinding grain and were also being used for dyeing, forging, and pressing, a crucial turning point in the economic development of Europe. Life was made easier for people on Earth by such uses of renewable energy, but life changed very little; the overall human condition remained the same for two thousand years.
When a Scotsman named James Watt patented the world’s first truly efficient and practical steam engine in 1769, it elevated energy’s service to mankind to a new level. Ironically, it was Watt who coined the term “horsepower,” which he used to describe the new unit of measure his innovation had made possible. The rapid socioeconomic transformation brought about by industrialization and made possible by fossil energy was without precedent in world history. With the rapid changes made possible by the rise of fossil fuels, and by the machines and gadgets they made possible, came, inevitably, ever-increasing demand for even more energy. Similarly, the number of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars, trucks, and buses on America’s roads and highways grew exponentially, as did the number of airplanes in the sky.
The constant introduction of new products into the marketplace required energy producers to make better use of the resources at their disposal, and to find better ways of getting their product to the end user.
America’s insatiable appetite for the good things energy delivers could not be satisfied by fossil fuels alone.
The rise of the digital age at the turn of the 21st century, with its high-speed computers, laser-jet printers, high-definition television sets, and other gigabyte-rich devices, will only increase demand for energy. Not all parts of the world have shared in the benefits modern energy has bestowed on the US, Europe, Japan, and other industrialized countries. The conditions prevailing in the world’s poorest regions today are not unlike those experienced by our ancestors only a few generations ago.
Electricity generation is now our leading form of energy consumption, which is understood by most Americans who search for additional electrical outlets around their energy-comforted homes to plug in the latest electronic gadgets or labor saving devices that make life more enjoyable or lighten their loads. It is par for the course that with oil hovering between $70 and $80 per barrel Americans have continued to buy SUVs and trucks at a rapid pace.
Therefore, when it hits America with its full fury, it will be a complete surprise to the ignorant masses and the ignorant politicians who run this country.


It is not surprising that the American public, American politicians, and the American media don't see the impending crisis.
A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity.
To generate the energy required worldwide by the 2030s would require us to find an additional 1.4 MBD every year until then. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career.
Under oil prices at the time, that amounted to a cost of more than €400bn (?297bn) in imports in the year in question, but that figure is now volatile owing to the effects of a sharply lower oil price and the exchange rate of the Euro. That relative independence is likely to be eroded further in future years, however, as the North Sea supplies of oil and gas are dwindling fast. Just behind came renewable sources of energy, which in total generated just under a quarter of homegrown power.
The government has sought to encourage energy efficiency by home insulation schemes and levying a price on carbon for businesses.
Electricity prices to European companies are about 40% higher than those in the US, and gas prices in Europe are three to four times higher, following the vast expansion of shale gas production there.
That target is likely to be enshrined in a new global agreement on climate change, scheduled to be signed in Paris in December. Membership includes district energy and CHP system managers, engineers, consultants and equipment suppliers from 25 countries. If we did this, what would such a change mean for GDP, based on historical Energy and GDP relationships back to 1820? World Energy Consumption by Source, Based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent.
I have also assumed that non-fossil fuels (some combination of wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, nuclear, and hydro) could be ramped up by 72%, so that total energy consumption “only” decreases by 50%. Forecast of world energy consumption, assuming fossil fuel consumption decreases by 80% by 2050, and non fossil fuels increase so that total fuel consumption decreases by “only” 50%.
Forecast of per capita energy consumption, using the energy estimates in Figure 2 divided by world population estimates by the UN. You may have heard about recent declines in energy consumption in Europe and the US, but these declines have been more than offset by increases in energy consumption in China, India, and the rest of the “developing” world. The reason I consider it a best-case scenario is because it assumes that the patterns we saw on the up-slope will continue on the down-slope. Given past relationships, this would be especially the case for Europe and the United States. The decrease would likely be greater in higher income countries, such as the United States and Europe, because a more equitable sharing of resources between rich and poor nations would be needed, if the poor nations are to have enough of the basics. These estimates are not available for every year, but we have estimates for them for several dates going back through history. Average annual growth rates during selected periods, selected based on data availability, for population growth, energy growth, and real GDP growth. Regression analysis (Figure 5, below) shows that they are highly correlated, with an r squared of 0.74. Regression analysis of average annual percent change in world energy vs world GDP, with world energy percent change the independent variable. While arguments can be made that we will redouble our efforts toward greater efficiency if we have less fuel, any transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles, or more efficient electricity generation, has a cost involved, and uses fuel, so may be less common, rather than more common in the future. Regression analysis of average annual percent change in world energy vs world GDP excluding the periods 1980 to 1990 and 1990 to 2000, with world energy percent change the independent variable.
Thus, the world economy would even to a greater extent be in “recession territory” between now and 2050.
If we look at population increases compared to energy growth by period (Figure 8), population growth is moderately correlated with energy growth, with an r squared of 0.55.
Regression analysis of population growth compared to energy growth, based on annual averages, with energy growth the independent variable. Even if this model fit very well (which it doesn’t), it still wouldn’t necessarily be predictive during periods of energy contraction.
Comparison of average growth in total world energy consumed with the average amount consumed per person, for periods since 1820. Regression analysis comparing total average increase in world energy with average increase in energy per capita, with average increase in world energy the independent variable. This seems to occur because population growth more than offsets efficiency growth, as women continue to give birth to more babies than required to survive to adulthood.
There are few energy possibilities that are less fossil fuel dependent, such as solar thermal (hot water bottles left in the sun to warm) and biofuels made in small quantities for local use. Average annual growth in GDP in energy and in population, for selected periods back to the year 1 AD. We know that in the 1000 to 1500 and 1500 to 1820 time periods, early energy sources (peat moss, water power, wind power, animal labor) became more widespread. If our per capita energy consumption drops to the level it was in 1905, can we realistically expect to have robust international trade, and will other systems hold together? We don’t want to bug you that often, so let us know what energy issues interest you, and we’ll keep your inbox happy. Over millennia, people learned to harness draft animals and to tap the resources of wind and water.
And by the end of the 12th century, windmills had become so important to the economy in Europe that Pope Celestine decided to tax them.
His steam engine was the first of several developments that would eventually displace the horse as the primary means of moving heavy objects over land and begin to free humans from backbreaking labor.
Horsepower, as defined by Watt, was the work done when a horse lifted a 550-pound load of water or coal out of a mineshaft at a rate of one foot per second.
The product of energy-laden plants that died millions of years ago and lay crushed beneath layers of dirt and water where heat and pressure did their magic, coal became the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. As electricity became commonplace in homes and offices, so too did labor-saving appliances and equipment such as washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and computers. Energy made new wealth possible, and more wealth – and the time energy provided to enjoy it – made leisure, travel and education possible for many more people. Just as coal had displaced firewood as the chief source of fuel in the US by the mid-1880s, petroleum surpassed coal by 1951, as did natural gas as a heating source a few years later. Hydroelectric power, a renewable source of energy created by the damming of rapidly-flowing rivers, was introduced in the 1890s, as was nuclear power in the late 1950s.
In the decades ahead, almost all of the expanding demand for energy will be met by fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable sources – in that order. Endemic poverty in under-developed countries means that some two billion people have no access to electricity or clean drinking water.
The conditions and the quality of life without energy are strikingly similar in different geographic regions around the globe. As we have grown into the world’s largest economy, our energy choices have shifted from wood, biomass and small amounts of coal to those energy resources used for higher forms of human socioeconomic organization such as industry, manufacturing, transportation and communication. Transportation – and the freedoms it affords Americans — is our next most popular consumer of energy. Politicians don't have constituents screaming at them because gas is $4.00 per gallon, so it is no longer an issue for them.
The right to prosperity was yanked out from underneath us by the current Greater Depression. The organizations that have an interest in looking farther than next week into the future have all concluded that the downside of peak oil will cause chaos throughout the world. Waiting until production peaks would leave the world with a liquid fuel deficit for 20 years. Without mitigation, the peaking of world oil production will cause major economic upheaval. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. The EU has even lost ground on renewable energy, once a strength: none of the world’s top ten solar companies is European. Amounts before black line are actual; amounts after black lines are forecast in this scenario.


For example, it assumes that financial systems will continue to operate as today, international trade will continue as in the past, and that there will not be major problems with overthrown governments or interruptions to electrical power. Here, I am relying primarily on population and GDP estimates of Angus Maddison, and energy estimates of Vaclav Smil, supplemented by more recent data (mostly for 2008 to 2010) by BP, the EIA, and USDA Economic Research Service. Also, the big savings in energy change relative to GDP change seems to come in the 1980 to 1990 and 1990 to 2000 periods, when we were aggressively moving into a service economy and were working hard to reduce oil consumption.
Using the regression equation shown in Figure 8, population growth would still be positive with an annual contraction of energy of 1.72% per year, but just barely.
While it is easy to make estimates that make the transition sound easy, when a person looks at the historical data, making the transition to using less fuel looks quite difficult, even in a best-case scenario.
Even in antiquity, they attached sails made of cloth to wooden ships, enabling them to use the power of wind to propel them over water. The primary role of women was to produce many children whose backs would also be used for labor…if they survived.
Just four decades after Watt’s breakthrough, coal-fired steam engines were powering the world’s first locomotives in England and displacing sails on ships at sea.
The industrialization made possible by coal, the first of the fossil fuels to come into widespread use, was a watershed social and economic development. While the transition of muscle power from humans to animals, the development of windmills and watermills, and the development of sophisticated sailing ships took place over millennia, the societal improvements delivered by fossil fuels came within a few generations. Coal, however, would make a comeback in the form of coal-fired electricity plants that, by the beginning of the 21st century, supplied the US with just over 50 percent of its electricity. In recent years, other renewable sources of energy – wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal – have entered the fray. It is the transformation of unused or even useless by mankind through applied logic into a force for good that lessens the load for all of us and in doing so, increases our productivity and extends the amount of one of the truly finite resources – time. There are many reasons why poverty and disease have persisted in some parts of the world but are largely absent in others.
Much of this is consumed transporting the products of our industrial economy to their intended markets, and our industrial output is responsible for our 3rd largest amount of energy consumption. You can check for yourself the complexity of the system by using our interactive energy model, showing the energy the world’s greatest economy uses and how. The US Military, the German Military, and the UK Department of Energy have all done detailed studies of the situation and come to the same conclusions.
Its own Department of Energy commissioned a report by Robert Hirsch to examine peak oil and its potential consequences to the US. Initiating a crash program 10 years before peaking leaves a liquid fuels shortfall of a decade.
Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India. It also assumes that we will continue to transition to a service economy, and that there will be continued growth in energy efficiency. Services tend to be more optional–getting one’s hair cut more frequently, attending additional years at a university, or sending grandma to an Assisted Living Center.
If we exclude those time periods (Figure 6, below), the regression analysis shows a better fit (r squared = .82).
For example, wind turbines and solar PV panels require fossil fuels for their manufacture, transport, and maintenance. To keep business processes working together, each part of every supply chain must have the fuel it needs. The biggest change, however, came with the addition of fossil fuels, in the period after 1820. The modern forms of commerce we enjoy today, with all of its benefits for our quality of life, find their roots in Watt’s ingenuity and the use of fossil energy.
The growing use of fossil fuels, notes the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), “freed human society from the fluctuations of natural energy flows by unlocking the Earth’s vast stores of oil, coal, and natural gas. As late as 1870, draft animals (mostly horses and mules) were the prime movers in the United States, but had all but disappeared from the streets of cities and towns along with their manure and the need for agricultural production dedicated to feed them – by the 1940s. However, while the use of renewable fuels is expected to increase in the years to come, their overall contribution to America’s energy pool is forecast by the EIA to remain very modest, far behind fossil fuels and nuclear energy. And it has been by trial and error that humans, over thousands of years, have used their ingenuity to make energy work for them. Without doubt, however, access to clean and affordable energy is one of the characteristics that distinguish the industrialized world from less fortunate regions.
Finally, about 10 percent of our energy is consumed by Americans’ homes and business buildings, enabling families to gather at home comfortably and work in spaces that allow them….
Social chaos, economic confusion, trade barriers, conflict, food shortages, riots, and war are in our future. Initiating a crash program 20 years before peaking could avoid a world liquid fuels shortfall.
On the other hand, if peaking is soon, failure to initiate mitigation could be extremely damaging.
So the direction for the future may be toward a mix that includes fewer, rather than more, services, so will be more energy intensive. Even nuclear energy requires fossil fuels for its maintenance, and for decommissioning old power plants, as well as for mining, transporting, and processing uranium. Electricity, essentially absent from the daily lives of Americans in the 1880s, was widespread in offices, factories, and homes a few decades later, allowing light to displace the dark and the productive day to be lengthened.
Nuclear power , by contrast, which currently supplies about 20 percent of US electricity, is expected to become a more prominent player as a new generation of power plants go into service in the decades to come.
Like the solar cell, it transforms fuel into electricity in a single step, completely bypassing the furnace, the turbine, and the generator. It is no time to tell the American public that oil will be over $200 a barrel within the next 5 years. They are probably more worried about whether The Situation will hook up with Snookie on the Jersey Shore reality show. Aggressive fuel efficiency and substitute fuel production could provide substantial mitigation.
To what extent conservation measures, investments in alternative energy production, and efforts to expand petroleum production from tar sands and shale would mitigate such a period of adjustment is difficult to predict.
Thus, the 1.13% “gain” in GDP due to greater efficiency and greater use of “services” rather than “goods” may shrink or disappear altogether.
Trying to set up a rationing system that handles all of these issues would be nearly impossible.
Fuel cells, however, consume pure hydrogen, a gas that’s difficult to liquefy, is viscous under high pressure, and penetrates the smallest of cracks, all of which means that it poses serious safety problems which must be overcome. Anyone who dared mention on CNBC today that oil will be over $200 a barrel would be eviscerated by Bartiromo and Kudlow, who see no crisis looming on the horizon. One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest. It remains to be seen whether fuel cells or some other technological innovation will dramatically alter the energy picture in the near future. Politicians, the mainstream media and the American public in general have a breathtakingly myopic view of the world. Despite the obvious facts staring them in the face, Americans believe cheap oil is here to stay.
In the meantime, it has become abundantly clear that worldwide oil production peaked between 2005 and 2010. Many seem to think that we are the chosen people and it is their right to have an endless supply of cheap oil, as if the American way of life had been granted by God. The Hirsch Report concluded we needed to begin preparing 20 years before peak oil in order to avoid chaos.



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