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AEO2012 Early Release Overview

Release Date: January 23, 2012   |  Full Report Release Date: June 2012   |   Report Number: DOE/EIA-0383ER(2012)

Executive Summary

Projections in the Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO2012) Reference case focus on the factors that shape U.S. energy markets in the long term, under the assumption that current laws and regulations remain generally unchanged throughout the projection period. The AEO2012 Reference case provides the basis for examination and discussion of energy market trends and serves as a starting point for analysis of potential changes in U.S. energy policies, rules, or regulations or potential technology breakthroughs. Some of the highlights in the AEO2012 Reference case include:

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

Projected transportation energy demand grows at an annual rate of 0.2 percent from 2010 through 2035 in the Reference case, and electricity demand grows by 0.8 percent per year. Energy consumption per capita declines by an average of 0.5 percent per year from 2010 to 2035. 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 42 percent from 2010 to 2035.

Domestic crude oil production increases

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 5.1 million barrels per day in 2007 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 in the Reference case to 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020, a level not seen since 1994. Even with a projected decline after 2020, U.S. crude oil production remains above 6.1 million barrels per day through 2035.

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

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U.S. dependence on imported petroleum liquids declines in the AEO2012 Reference case, primarily as a result of growth in domestic oil production by more than 1 million barrels per day by 2020; an increase in biofuels use to more than 1 million barrels per day crude oil equivalent by 2024; and modest growth in transportation sector demand through 2035. Net petroleum imports as a share of total U.S. liquid fuels consumed drop from 49 percent in 2010 to 36 percent in 2035 in AEO2012 (Figure 1). Proposed fuel economy standards covering vehicle model years 2017 through 2025 that are not included in the Reference case would further reduce projected liquids use and the need for liquids imports.

Natural gas production increases throughout the projection period

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Much of the growth in natural gas production is a result of 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 in energy equivalent terms than dry natural gas. Shale gas production increases from 5.0 trillion cubic feet in 2010 (23 percent of total U.S. dry gas production) to 13.6 trillion cubic feet in 2035 (49 percent of total U.S. dry gas production) (Figure 2).

Expected changes in the AEO2012 complete release

The Reference case results shown in the AEO2012 Early Release will vary somewhat from those included in the complete Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) that will be released in spring 2012, because some data and model updates were not available for inclusion in the Early Release. In particular, the complete AEO2012 will include the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 2011; updated historical data and equations in the transportation sector, based on revised data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration; a new model for cement production in the industrial sector; a revised long-term macroeconomic projection based on an updated long-term projection from IHS Global Insight, Inc.; and an updated representation of biomass supply.

U.S. production of natural gas is expected to exceed consumption early in the next decade

The United States is projected to become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016, a net pipeline exporter in 2025, and an overall net exporter of natural gas in 2021. The outlook reflects increased use of LNG in markets outside of North America, strong domestic natural gas production, reduced pipeline imports and increased pipeline exports, and relatively low natural gas prices in the United States compared to other global markets.

Use of renewable fuels and natural gas for electric power generation rises

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The natural gas share of electric power generation increases from 24 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2035, and the renewables share grows from 10 percent to 16 percent over the same period. In recent years, the U.S. electric power sector's historical reliance on coal-fired power plants has begun to decline. Over the next 25 years, the projected coal share of overall electricity generation falls to 39 percent, well below the 49-percent share seen as recently as 2007 (Figure 3), because of slow growth in electricity demand, continued competition from natural gas and renewable plants, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations.

Total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions remain below their 2005 level through 2035

figure dataEnergy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions grow by 3 percent from 2010 to 2035, to a total of 5,806 million metric tons in 2035. They are more than 7 percent below their 2005 level of 5,996 million metric tons in 2020 and are still below the 2005 level at the end of the projection period (Figure 4). Emissions per capita fall by an average of 1 percent per year from 2005 to 2035, as growth in demand for transportation fuels is moderated by higher energy prices and Federal corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and as electricity-related emissions are tempered by efficiency standards, State renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements, competitive natural gas prices that dampen coal use by electricity generators, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations. Proposed fuel economy standards covering model years 2017 through 2025 that are not included in the Reference case would further reduce projected energy use and emissions.