Oil and Gas are Still Main Energy Sources Even As Renewables Surge

Oil and Gas are Still Main Energy Sources Even With Renewables Growing

Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source, but petroleum and gas remain the most consumed energy sources in the US, according to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual energy outlook forecast. Coal and nuclear energy are both on the decline and are mostly being replaced by wind and solar technologies, but fossil fuels are expected to hold on strong through 2050. The EIA projects the US will continue producing record amounts of oil and gas if there aren’t significant changes.

"Though renewable sources grow faster, there is still a large established base of fossil fuel use that we simply do not see losing their predominance through 2050, at least not absent some form of policy action," said Stephen Nalley, acting EIA administrator, via webinar.

Bipartisan Policy Center: EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2022 Release, March 3, 2022.

Why This Matters

The forecast highlights the importance of making systemic energy policy changes. In order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, it's imperative to ramp down emissions to zero by mid-century -- which will mean shifting our energy sources from oil and gas to renewables like solar and wind. Even with the rapid growth and investment cited, renewables remain only about 20% of the US energy sector; gas is around 40%. To hit the Biden Administration’s goal of having a 100% clean power sector by 2035, renewables would have to grow at twice the record-breaking rate seen in 2021.

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

Clean Energy Investments Increasing

A 2021 report shows just how much money is going into renewable energy, even as old systems remain entrenched. Worldwide, investments in the 2020 energy transition hit $500 billion, which includes electrified transportation, energy storage, carbon capture, and investments in renewable energy. Last month, the World Economic Forum reported that investment in the energy transition rose by 27% from the year prior, hitting $755 billion. Additionally, the cost of equipment for renewable energy sources, such as wind, is decreasing -- meaning increased capacity as new investments go further than before. Experts predict "future onshore and offshore wind costs to decline 37-49% by 2050," according to a study in Nature.

Almost all of the new power generation capacity worldwide came from renewable energy, and wind and solar are now the cheapest new power sources for about two-thirds of the world population.

CNBC: The Rise Of Wind Power In The US, March 10, 2021.

TODAY: Off-Shore Wind Farms Provide Promising Roadmap For More Clean Energy, September 19, 2021.