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Annual Energy Outlook 2012

Release Date: June 25, 2012   |  Next Early Release Date: December 5, 2012  |   Report Number: DOE/EIA-0383(2012)

Executive Summary AEO 2011 Executive Summary

The projections in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA's) Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO2012) focus on the factors that shape the U.S. energy system over the long term. Under the assumption that current laws and regulations remain unchanged throughout the projections, the AEO2012 Reference case provides the basis for examination and discussion of energy production, consumption, technology, and market trends and the direction they may take in the future. It also serves as a starting point for analysis of potential changes in energy policies. But AEO2012 is not limited to the Reference case. It also includes 29 alternative cases (see Appendix E, Table E1), which explore important areas of uncertainty for markets, technologies, and policies in the U.S. "Issues in focus" section of this report.

Key results highlighted in AEO2012 include continued modest growth in demand for energy over the next 25 years and increased domestic crude oil and natural gas production, largely driven by rising production from tight oil and shale resources. As a result, U.S. reliance on imported oil is reduced; domestic production of natural gas exceeds consumption, allowing for net exports; a growing share of U.S. electric power generation is met with natural gas and renewables; and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions remain below their 2005 level from 2010 to 2035, even in the absence of new Federal policies designed to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The rate of growth in energy use slows over the projection period, reflecting moderate population growth, an extended economic recovery, and increasing energy efficiency in end-use applications


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Overall U.S. energy consumption grows at an average annual rate of 0.3 percent from 2010 through 2035 in the AEO2012 Reference case. The U.S. does not return to the levels of energy demand growth experienced in the 20 years prior to the 2008- 2009 recession, because of more moderate projected economic growth and population growth, coupled with increasing levels of energy efficiency. For some end uses, current Federal and State energy requirements and incentives play a continuing role in requiring more efficient technologies. Projected energy demand for transportation grows at an annual rate of 0.1 percent from 2010 through 2035 in the Reference case, and electricity demand grows by 0.7 percent per year, primarily as a result of rising energy consumption in the buildings sector. Energy consumption per capita declines by an average of 0.6 percent per year from 2010 to 2035 (Figure 1). The energy intensity of the U.S. economy, measured as primary energy use in British thermal units (Btu) per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 dollars, declines by an average of 2.1 percent per year from 2010 to 2035. New Federal and State policies could lead to further reductions in energy consumption. The potential impact of technology change and the proposed vehicle fuel efficiency standards on energy consumption are discussed in "Issues in focus."

Much of the projected decline in the net import share of energy supply is accounted for by liquids. Although U.S. consumption of liquid fuels continues to grow through 2035 in the Reference case, reliance on petroleum imports as a share of total liquids consumption decreases. Total U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035 in the Reference case. The import share, which reached 60 percent in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 51 percent in 2009, falls to 42 percent in 2035 (Figure 1).

Domestic crude oil production increases


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Domestic crude oil production has increased over the past few years, reversing a decline that began in 1986. U.S. crude oil production increased from 5.0 million barrels per day in 2008 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010. Over the next 10 years, continued development of tight oil, in combination with the ongoing development of offshore resources in the Gulf of Mexico, pushes domestic crude oil production higher. Because the technology advances that have provided for recent increases in supply are still in the early stages of development, future U.S. crude oil production could vary significantly, depending on the outcomes of key uncertainties related to well placement and recovery rates. Those uncertainties are highlighted in this Annual Energy Outlook's"Issues in focus" section, which includes an article examining impacts of uncertainty about current estimates of the crude oil and natural gas resources. The AEO2012 projections considering variations in these variables show total U.S. crude oil production in 2035 ranging from 5.5 million barrels per day to 7.8 million barrels per day, and projections for U.S. tight oil production from eight selected plays in 2035 ranging from 0.7 million barrels per day to 2.8 million barrels per day (Figure 2).

With modest economic growth, increased efficiency, growing domestic production, and continued adoption of nonpetroleum liquids, net imports of petroleum and other liquids make up a smaller share of total U.S. energy consumption

U.S. dependence on imported petroleum and other liquids declines in the AEO2012 Reference case, primarily as a result of rising energy prices; growth in domestic crude oil production to more than 1 million barrels per day above 2010 levels in 2020; an increase of 1.2 million barrels per day crude oil equivalent from 2010 to 2035 in the use of biofuels, much of which is produced domestically; and slower growth of energy consumption in the transportation sector as a result of existing corporate average fuel economy standards. Proposed fuel economy standards covering vehicle model years (MY) 2017 through 2025 that are not included in the Reference case would further reduce projected need for liquid imports.


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Although U.S. consumption of petroleum and other liquid fuels continues to grow through 2035 in the Reference case, the reliance on imports of petroleum and other liquids as a share of total consumption declines. Total U.S. consumption of petroleum and other liquids, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from 19.2 million barrels per day in 2010 to 19.9 million barrels per day in 2035 in the Reference case. The net import share of domestic consumption, which reached 60 percent in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 49 percent in 2010, continues falling in the Reference case to 36 percent in 2035 (Figure 3). Proposed light-duty vehicles (LDV) fuel economy standards covering vehicle MY 2017 through 2025, which are not included in the Reference case, could further reduce demand for petroleum and other liquids and the need for imports, and increased supplies from U.S. tight oil deposits could also significantly decrease the need for imports, as discussed in more detail in "Issues in focus."

Natural gas production increases throughout the projection period, allowing the United States to transition from a net importer to a net exporter of natural gas


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Much of the growth in natural gas production in the AEO2012 Reference case results from the application of recent technological advances and continued drilling in shale plays with high concentrations of natural gas liquids and crude oil, which have a higher value than dry natural gas in energy equivalent terms. Shale gas production increases in the Reference case from 5.0 trillion cubic feet per year in 2010 (23 percent of total U.S. dry gas production) to 13.6 trillion cubic feet per year in 2035 (49 percent of total U.S. dry gas production). As with tight oil, when looking forward to 2035, there are unresolved uncertainties surrounding the technological advances that have made shale gas production a reality. The potential impact of those uncertainties results in a range of outcomes for U.S. shale gas production from 9.7 to 20.5 trillion cubic feet per year when looking forward to 2035.

As a result of the projected growth in production, U.S. natural gas production exceeds consumption early in the next decade in the Reference case (Figure 4). The outlook reflects increased use of liquefied natural gas in markets outside North America, strong growth in domestic natural gas production, reduced pipeline imports and increased pipeline exports, and relatively low natural gas prices in the United States.

Power generation from renewables and natural gas continues to increase

In the Reference case, the natural gas share of electric power generation increases from 24 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2035, while the renewables share grows from 10 percent to 15 percent. In contrast, the share of generation from coal-fired power plants declines. The historical reliance on coal-fired power plants in the U.S. electric power sector has begun to wane in recent years.


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Over the next 25 years, the share of electricity generation from coal falls to 38 percent, well below the 48-percent share seen as recently as 2008, due to slow growth in electricity demand, increased competition from natural gas and renewable generation, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations. Although the current trend toward increased use of natural gas and renewables appears fairly robust, there is uncertainty about the factors influencing the fuel mix for electricity generation. AEO2012 includes several cases examining the impacts on coal-fired plant generation and retirements resulting from different paths for electricity demand growth, coal and natural gas prices, and compliance with upcoming environmental rules.

While the Reference case projects 49 gigawatts of coal-fired generation retirements over the 2011 to 2035 period, nearly all of which occurs over the next 10 years, the range for cumulative retirements of coal-fired power plants over the projection period varies considerably across the alternative cases (Figure 5), from a low of 34 gigawatts (11 percent of the coal-fired generator fleet) to a high of 70 gigawatts (22 percent of the fleet). The high end of the range is based on much lower natural gas prices than those assumed in the Reference case; the lower end of the range is based on stronger economic growth, leading to stronger growth in electricity demand and higher natural gas prices. Other alternative cases, with varying assumptions about coal prices and the
length of the period over which environmental compliance costs will be recovered, but no assumption of new policies to limit GHG emissions from existing plants, also yield cumulative retirements within a range of 34 to 70 gigawatts. Retirements of coal-fired capacity exceed the high end of the range (70 gigawatts) when a significant GHG policy is assumed (for further description of the cases and results, see "Issues in focus").

Total energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide in the United States remain below their 2005 level through 2035

Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions grow slowly in the AEO2012 Reference case, due to a combination of modest economic growth, growing use of renewable technologies and fuels, efficiency improvements, slow growth in electricity demand, and increased use of natural gas, which is less carbon-intensive than other fossil fuels. In the Reference case, which assumes no explicit Federal regulations to limit GHG emissions beyond vehicle GHG standards (although State programs and renewable portfolio standards are included), energy-related CO2 emissions grow by just over 2 percent from 2010 to 2035, to a total of 5,758 million metric tons in 2035 (Figure 6). CO2 emissions in 2020 in the Reference case are more than 9 percent below the 2005 level of 5,996 million metric tons, and they still are below the 2005 level at the end of the projection period. Emissions per capita fall by an average of 1.0 percent per year from 2005 to 2035.


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Projections for CO2 emissions are sensitive to such economic and regulatory factors due to the pervasiveness of fossil fuel use in the economy. These linkages result in a range of potential GHG emissions scenarios. In the AEO2012 Low and High Economic Growth cases, projections for total primary energy consumption in 2035 are, respectively, 100.0 quadrillion Btu (6.4 percent below the Reference case) and 114.4 quadrillion Btu (7.0 percent above the Reference case), and projections for energy-related CO2 emissions in 2035 are 5,356 million metric tons (7.0 percent below the Reference case) and 6,117 million metric tons (6.2 percent above the Reference case).

Reference Case Tables
Table 1. Total Energy Supply, Disposition, and Price Summary XLS
Table 2. Energy Consumption by Sector and Source - United States XLS
Table 3. Energy Prices by Sector and Source - United States XLS
Table 4. Residential Sector Key Indicators and Consumption XLS
Table 5. Commercial Sector Key Indicators and Consumption XLS
Table 6. Industrial Sector Key Indicators and Consumption XLS
Table 7. Transportation Sector Key Indicators and Delivered Energy Consumption XLS
Table 8. Electricity Supply, Disposition, Prices, and Emissions XLS
Table 9. Electricity Generating Capacity XLS
Table 10. Electricity Trade XLS
Table 11. Liquid Fuels Supply and Disposition XLS
Table 12. Petroleum Product Prices XLS
Table 13. Natural Gas Supply, Disposition, and Prices XLS
Table 14. Oil and Gas Supply XLS
Table 15. Coal Supply, Disposition, and Prices XLS
Table 16. Renewable Energy Generating Capacity and Generation XLS
Table 17. Renewable Energy Consumption by Sector and Source XLS
Table 18. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Sector and Source - United States XLS
Table 19. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by End Use XLS
Table 20. Macroeconomic Indicators XLS
Table 21. International Liquids Supply and Disposition Summary XLS