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EIA Energy Outlook 2013 reference case sees drop in fossil fuel consumption as use of petroleum-based liquid fuels falls; projects 20% higher sales of hybrids and PHEVs than AEO2012

Transportation sector gasoline demand declines. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration released its Annual Energy Outlook 2013 (AEO2013) Reference case (the Early Release), which highlights a growth in total US energy production that exceeds growth in total US energy consumption through 2040.

Among its many findings, the Reference case suggests that US primary energy consumption will grow by 7% from 2011 to 2040 to 108 quadrillion Btu. However, energy use per capita declines by 15% from 2011 through 2040 as a result of improving energy efficiency (e.g., new appliance standards and CAFE) and changes in the way energy is used in the US economy. Further, the fossil fuel share of primary energy consumption falls from 82% in 2011 to 78% in 2040 as consumption of petroleum-based liquid fuels falls, largely because of the incorporation of new fuel efficiency standards for light-duty vehicles.

The Reference case—which serves as a basis against which alternative cases and policies to be detailed in the complete AEO2013 to be released next spring can be compared—generally assumes that current laws and regulations affecting the energy sector remain unchanged throughout the projection (including the implication that laws that include sunset dates do, in fact, end at the time of those sunset dates).

Many of the additional cases will reflect the impacts of extending a variety of current energy programs beyond their current expiration dates and the permanent retention of a broad set of programs that currently are subject to sunset provisions.

Increased sales for hybrids and PHEVs. The AEO2013 reference case projects delivered energy consumption in the transportation sector to remain relatively constant at about 27 quadrillion Btu from 2011 to 2040. Energy consumption by LDVs (including commercial light trucks) declines in the Reference case, from 16.1 quadrillion Btu in 2011 to 14.0 quadrillion Btu in 2025, due to incorporation of the model year 2017 to 2025 GHG and CAFE standards for LDVs.

Despite the projected increase in LDV miles traveled, energy consumption for LDVs further decreases after 2025, to 13.0 quadrillion Btu in 2035, as a result of fuel economy improvements achieved through stock turnover as older, less efficient vehicles are replaced by newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Beyond 2035, LDV energy demand begins to level off as increases in travel demand begin to exceed fuel economy improvements in the vehicle stock.

Projected sales of alternative-fuel vehicles in the AEO2013 Reference case are lower than in AEO2012, with the majority of the reduction reflected in sales of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), which in 2035 are about 1.3 million, or less than one-half the 2.9 million FFV sales in the AEO2012 Reference case.

Sales of battery-powered electric vehicles are 65% lower in the AEO2013 Reference case than the year before, with annual sales in 2035 estimated to be about 119,000. Reductions in battery electric vehicles are offset by increased sales of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which grow to about 1.3 million vehicles in 203—about 20% higher than in the AEO2012 Reference case.

Continued fuel economy improvement in vehicles using other alternative fuels, gasoline, and diesel, combined with growth in the use of hybrid technologies (including micro, mild, full, and plug-in hybrid vehicles), limit the use of electric vehicles over the projection. Although about one-half of new LDV sales in 2040 use diesel, alternative fuels, or hybrid technology, only a small share, less than 1%, are all-electric.

Overall findings. AEO2013 offers a number of other key findings, including:

  • Crude oil production, especially from tight oil plays, rises sharply over the next decade. Domestic oil production will rise to 7.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, up from less than 6 million bpd in 2011.

  • Motor gasoline consumption will be less than previously estimated. Compared with the last AEO, the AEO2013 shows lower gasoline use, reflecting the introduction of more stringent corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Growth in diesel fuel consumption will be moderated by the increased use of natural gas in heavy-duty vehicles.

  • The United States becomes a net exporter of natural gas earlier than estimated a year ago. Because quickly rising natural gas production outpaces domestic consumption, the United States will become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016 and a net exporter of total natural gas (including via pipelines) in 2020.

  • Renewable fuel use grows at a much faster rate than fossil fuel use. The share of electricity generation from renewables grows to 16% in 2040 from 13% in 2011. Biomass and biofuels growth is slower than in AEO2012. Biofuels grow at a slower rate due to lower crude oil prices and slower growth in E85 sales.

  • Net imports of energy decline. The decline reflects increased domestic production of both petroleum and natural gas, increased use of biofuels, and lower demand resulting from the adoption of new vehicle fuel efficiency standards and rising energy prices. The net import share of total US energy consumption falls to 9% in 2040 from 19% in 2011.

  • US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions remain more than 5% below their 2005 level through 2040, reflecting increased efficiency and the shift to a less carbon-intensive fuel mix.

Other AEO2013 Reference case highlights include:

  • The Brent spot crude oil price declines from $111 per barrel (in 2011 dollars) in 2011 to $96 per barrel in 2015. After 2015, the Brent price increases, reaching $163 per barrel in 2040, as growing demand leads to the development of more costly resources. World liquids consumption grows from 88 million bpd in 2011 to 113 million bpd in 2040, driven by demand in China, India, Brazil, and other developing economies.

  • Energy use per 2005 dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) declines by 46% from 2011 to 2040 in AEO2013 as a result of a continued shift from manufacturing to services (and, even within manufacturing, to less energy-intensive manufacturing industries), rising energy prices, and the adoption of policies that promote energy efficiency. CO2 emissions per 2005 dollar of GDP have historically tracked closely with energy use per dollar of GDP. In the AEO2013 Reference case, however, as lower carbon fuels account for a bigger share of total energy use, CO2 emissions per 2005 dollar of GDP decline more rapidly than energy use per 2005 dollar of GDP, falling by 56 percent from 2005 to 2040, at an annual rate of 2.3%.

  • Net imports of energy decline both in absolute terms and as a share of total US energy consumption. The decline in energy imports reflects increased domestic petroleum and natural gas production, increased use of biofuels, and lower demand resulting from rising energy prices and the adoption of new efficiency standards for vehicles. The net import share of total US energy consumption is 9% in 2040, compared with 19% in 2011. (The share was 29% in 2007.)

Changes to Reference case. The Reference case incorporates a number of key changes, including:

  • Extension of the projection period through 2040, an additional five years beyond AEO2012.

  • Adoption of a new Liquid Fuels Market Module (LFMM) in place of the Petroleum Market Module used in earlier AEOs; this provides for more granular and integrated modeling of petroleum refineries and all other types of current and potential future liquid fuels production technologies. This allows more direct analysis and modeling of the regional supply and demand effects involving crude oil and other feedstocks, current and future processes, and marketing to consumers.

  • A shift to the use of Brent spot price as the reference oil price. AEO2013 also presents the average West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spot price of light, low-sulfur crude oil delivered in Cushing, Oklahoma, and includes the U.S. annual average refiners' acquisition cost of imported crude oil, which is more representative of the average cost of all crude oils used by domestic refiners.

  • A shift from using regional natural gas wellhead prices to using representative regional natural gas spot prices as the basis of the natural gas supply price. Due to this change, the methodology for estimating the Henry Hub price was revised.

  • Updated handling of data on flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) to better reflect consumer preferences and industry response. FFVs are necessary to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), but the phasing out of CAFE credits for their sale and limited demand from consumers reduce their market penetration.

  • A revised outlook for industrial production to reflect the impacts of increased shale gas production and lower natural gas prices, which result in faster growth for industrial production and energy consumption. The industries affected include, in particular, bulk chemicals and primary metals.

  • Incorporation of a new aluminum process flow model in the industrial sector, which allows for diffusion of technologies through choices made among known commercial and emerging technologies based on relative capital costs and fuel expenditures and provides for a more realistic representation of the evolution of energy consumption than in previous AEOs.

  • An enhanced industrial chemical model, in several respects: the baseline liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) feedstock data have been aligned with 2006 survey data; use of an updated propane-pricing mechanism that reflects natural gas price influences in order to allow for price competition between LPG feedstock and petroleum-based (naphtha) feedstock; and specific accounting in the Industrial Demand Model for propylene supplied by the LFMM.

  • Updated handling of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for industrial boilers and process heaters to address the maximum degree of emissions reduction using maximum achievable control technology. An industrial capital expenditure and fuel price adjustment for coal and residual fuel has been applied to reflect risk perception about the use of those fuels relative to natural gas.

  • Augmentation of the construction and mining models in the Industrial Demand Model to better reflect AEO2013 assumptions regarding energy efficiencies in off-road vehicles and buildings, as well as the productivity of coal, oil, and natural gas extraction.

  • Adoption of final model year 2017 to 2025 GHG emissions and CAFE standards for LDVs, which increases the projected fuel economy of new LDVs to 47.3 mpg in 2025.

  • Updated handling of the representation of purchase decisions for alternative fuels for heavy-duty vehicles. Market factors used to calculate the relative cost of alternative-fuel vehicles, specifically natural gas, now represent first buyer-user behavior and slightly longer break-even payback periods, significantly increasing the demand for natural gas fuel in heavy trucks.

  • Updated modeling of LNG export potential, which includes a rudimentary assessment of pricing of natural gas in international markets.

  • Updated power generation unit costs that capture recent cost declines for some renewable technologies, which tend to lead to greater use of renewable generation, particularly solar technologies.

  • Reinstatement of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) after the court’s announcement of intent to vacate the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

  • Modeling of California’s Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), that allows for representation of a cap-and-trade program developed as part of California’s GHG reduction goals for 2020. The coordinated regulations include an enforceable GHG cap that will decline over time. AEO2013 reflects all covered sectors, including emissions offsets and allowance allocations.

  • Incorporation of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which requires fuel producers and importers who sell motor gasoline or diesel fuel in California to reduce the carbon intensity of those fuels by 10% between 2012 and 2020 through the increased sale of alternative low-carbon fuels.



Other economic forecasters claim that EU and USA growth will be very slow or even negative for the next 40+ years unless major changes are made. If they are right, the total energy consumption may level off and even go down.

During extended economic down turns, the middle class revenues will not growth and even go down and so will the lower class. With less revenues, 97% of the population will look for ways to lower the cost of the energy they consume specially for the family vehicle(s).

In many places, where electricity is relatively clean and cheap, the 97% will switch from ICEVs to electrified vehicles (HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs). After/by 2020, the cost of high performance EV batteries will go down, PHEVs and extended range BEVs will become affordable. The world will see a major rise in BEVs sales shortly after 2020. The yearly sales of BEVs in USA by 2035 will certainly be much higher (5X to 10+X) than the 119,000 mentioned above.

David Snydacker

Advanced battery chemistries, including next-gen Li-ion, Li-S, Li-O2, and Mg-ion, hold disruptive potential in the auto industry. If one or more of these approaches scales successfully, BEVs will be transformed and sales will surge well beyond EIA's statistical extrapolations.


This study of future energy consumption mirrors other similar serious studies such as the Ricardo Study of about 1 year ago. Bottom line, forecasting flaccid future demand accompanied by robust supply.
The scenario outlined will almost certainly lead to a collapse in the price of crude oil.

@ David many current developments have "disruptive potential" one of which is certainly improving battery technology. Another the pace of conversion to natural gas fueled vehicles.


I could see C.A.F.E., synthetic fuels and LNG/CNG for trucks reducing oil imports to the U.S.

Bob Wallace

This prediction is simply bizarre -

The share of electricity generation from renewables grows to 16% in 2040 from 13% in 2011.

A 3% increase spread over 29 years. 0.1% per year!

Since 2006 the US has added non-hydro renewables to the grid at the rate of 0.6%, 0.6%, 0.6%, 0.4%, and 0.7% for successive years and we are on track to add 1.2% in 2012.

Those numbers do not include end-user installed solar, which exceeds utility-installed solar. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that we added about 2% renewable generation to the mix this year alone.

The cost of wind continues to decline. The cost of solar is plummeting. Solar is reaching grid parity at the consumer level, installation rates are soaring.

I don't understand how they could make such a strange prediction.

Bob Wallace

A common problem I see with agency predictions is that they don't make allowance for the sort of rapid tipping points generally reached in technology shifts.

When we hit the point at which one can buy an EV with a solid 180 or so mile range for no more than a couple thousand dollars more than a feature-equivalent ICEV we will almost certainly see a rapid market switch.

Look at how rapidly we went from typewriters to computers, film to digital. The same will happen with personal vehicles, slowed only by the residual value of paid off vehicles.

The resale value of inefficient cars will drop to near nothing, sending them to early crusher encounters. More efficient models will hang on for a while and be used by those who don't drive a lot. But most people won't bother with expensive repairs. Forget rebuilding engines.

Average lifespan for a US vehicle is around 12 years now.

Tipping point + 15 years is my prediction. At that point there will be few gas stations left and sales of personal ICEVs may have reached zero.

Oil will be for heavy vehicle/equipment, airplanes, and ships. And a tiny market for classic/antique cars.


I prefer BW predictions.

Tom Watson

A year or so ago I posted a brief account of trials and tribulations with Whirlpool. It's quickly becoming the most hated appliance economy. United Appliance Repair Service 

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