National Research Council Report: More Energy Needed

There’s much of interest in a new report issued Wednesday by the America’s Energy Future project of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. This report, overseen by a committee that includes now Secretary of Energy Steven Chu as well other world-class researchers and energy industry leaders, concludes that even with advances in efficiency, America will need more energy, including oil, coal (with carbon capture) and nuclear power.

From the news release: “Actions Taken over the Next Decade to Demonstrate and Deploy Key Technologies Will Determine U.S. Energy Future” (with our emphases):

Deploying existing energy-efficiency technologies is a near-term and low-cost way to reduce U.S. energy demand, the report says. Fully deploying these technologies in buildings alone could save enough power to eliminate the need for new electricity generating plants to meet growing U.S. demand. However, some new plants would likely still be needed to address regional supply imbalances, replace obsolete technology, or present more environmentally friendly sources of electricity. Deployment of efficiency technologies in the building, industrial, and transportation sectors could reduce projected U.S. energy use by 15 percent in 2020 and by 30 percent in 2030. Even greater energy savings would be possible with more aggressive policies and incentives.

The United States has many promising options for obtaining new sources of electricity over the next two to three decades, especially if carbon capture and storage and evolutionary nuclear technologies can be deployed at an adequate scale. However, according to the report, the deployment of these new technologies is very likely to result in higher consumer prices for electricity. In addition, the nation’s electrical grid will require expansion and modernization to enhance its reliability and security, accommodate changes in load growth and electricity demand, and to enable the deployment of new energy efficiency and supply technologies, especially intermittent wind and solar energy.

In the transportation sector, petroleum will continue to be an indispensable fuel in the coming decades, but maintaining current rates of domestic petroleum production (about 5.1 million barrels per day in 2008) will be challenging. There are limited options for replacing petroleum or reducing petroleum use before 2020, but there are more substantial long-term options that could begin to make significant contributions by 2030 or 2035. Reductions in petroleum use could be obtained through increased vehicle efficiency, production of alternative liuid fuels such as cellulosic ethanol or coal-and-biomass fuels, and expanding deployment of battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

From The National Academies, the full study:


Follow the links below for related titles from the America’s Energy Future study.



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