The Global View

What will our energy world look like in 2040?

What will our energy landscape look like in, say, 30 years? As physicist Neils Bohr is quoted as saying, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” But that doesn’t stop us from trying to envision the future anyway.

Here are a few prognostications about what energy markets might look like in 2040, based on ExxonMobil’s 2012 “Energy Outlook”:

  • With a global population of nearly 9 billion, we’ll be using about 30 percent more energy than we use today.
  • Our biggest energy appetite will be for electricity, which will account for more than 40 percent of the all power we consume in 2040.
  • For all the growth we’ve seen in renewables, oil, gas and coal will still be king, together generating around 80 percent of all energy we’ll use.
  • With natural gas set to overtake coal as the second-most consumed fuel, carbon dioxide emissions will be declining, having peaked around 2030.
  • Wind, solar and biofuels will meet around 4 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2040, with wind being the fastest-growing source of those three.
  • India and Africa will have the largest populations, but China will have the greatest number of households … more than 600 million.
  • 90 percent of the world’s transportation will still run on petroleum-based liquids — not much of a drop from today’s level o 95 percent. Personal vehicles will be much more efficient: nearly half of those on the road will be hybrids, electric or some other advanced design. Any gains there, though, will be lost to the dizzying growth (70-plus percent between 2010 and 2040) in fuel demands from commercial transport, including trucks, planes, ships and trains.
  • The demand for steel, iron and cement will be twice what it is today.
  • About 55 percent of the world’s oil resources will still remain unproduced in 2040.