U.S. sees 38% jump in global oil use by 2040

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Despite upcoming climate talks to curb heat-trapping carbon emissions, the U.S. government said Tuesday that global use of oil and other liquid fuels will jump 38% by 2040.

World consumption is projected to grow from 87 million barrels per day in 2010 to 119 million barrels in 2040 – up 4% from last year’s forecast, according to the International Energy Outlook 2014 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“The growth outlook for liquid fuels use will be largely driven by demand in the developing world, especially in Asia and the Middle East,” says EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski in announcing the results. Most, 72%, of this increase will come from developing Asian countries, including China and India.

In contrast, EIA says that liquid fuel demand in the United States, Europe and other regions with well-established oil markets seems to have peaked because years of high oil prices have prompted energy efficiency efforts and fuel switching.

The U.S. forecast is hardly good news for leaders of the 100-plus nations who will meet Sept. 23 in New York City for the United Nations’ Climate Summit. The summit aims to spur countries to pledge cuts in their carbon dioxide emissions, which are largely due to the burning of fossil fuels.

“We believe the summit will be a turning point in how the world approaches climate change,” Selwin Hart, director of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, told reporters Monday. He said countries are motivated to address the issue because they’re already seeing dire impacts such as rising sea levels.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute, a research group, sees reason for optimism. Since the last time many countries pledged emission cuts – in 2009 at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, she said the price of solar and wind power has fallen and more policies to address climate change have been introduced.

“There’s more experience on the ground,” said Morgan, director of WRI’s climate and energy programs.

Still, global emissions have continued to rise. On Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organization said the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013 and posted the biggest year-to-year change in three decades. The U.N. weather agency said it hit 396 parts per million last year, which is 42% higher than before the Industrial Age.

Along with increased demand, the EIA expects global supply of oil and other liquid fuels will also rise. It says rising oil prices, along with new drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing or fracking that can extract “tight” oil from shale rock, are boosting production in the Untied States and Canada.

“Other countries, including Mexico, Russia, Argentina and China, begin producing substantial volumes of tight oil between now and 2040,” the EIA reports. Still, it expects about 44% of the growth in liquid fuels supplies will come from producers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, 90% of which will come from its Middle East members.

The EIA forecast offers a bit of hope for climate negotiators eager to promote non-polluting renewable energy. “Rising prices for liquid fuels improve the cost competitiveness of other fuels” and will prompt some users to switch to alternate power sources, it says. From now until 2040, it sees a decrease in liquid fuel use in homes, businesses and power plants but not in the transportation and industrial sectors.