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EIA 2035 reference case projects drop in US imports of petroleum due to modest economic growth, increased efficiency, growing domestic oil production, and biofuels

EIA’s AEO2012 projects a continued decline in US imports of liquid fuels due to increased production of gas liquids and biofuels and greater fuel efficiency. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Reference case projections for US energy markets through 2035. The Reference case projections include only the effects of policies that have been implemented in law or final regulations.

Among the key findings in this early release of the Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO2012) is that US dependence on imported petroleum liquids declines primarily as a result of growth in domestic oil production of more than 1 million barrels per day by 2020; an increase in biofuel use of more than 1 million barrels per day crude oil equivalent by 2024; and modest growth in transportation sector demand through 2035. Net petroleum imports as a share of total US liquid fuels consumed drop from 49% in 2010 to 38% in 2020 and 36% in 2035 in AEO2012.

EIA projects that biofuels will fall short of the 2022 RFS target, but will exceed 36 billion gallons by the early 2030s. AEO2012 also projects that efficiency improvements mostly offset underlying drivers of growth in transportation services.

Click to enlarge.

While the reference case generally assumes current laws and regulations, there are some gray areas. EIA added a premium to the capital cost of CO2-intensive technologies to reflect current market behavior regarding possible future policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. It also assumed implementation of existing regulations that enable the building of new energy infrastructure and resource extraction.

The Reference case includes technologies that are commercial or reasonably expected to become commercial over next decade or so, including projected technology cost and efficiency improvements, as well as cost reductions linked to cumulative deployment levels. It does not assume any revolutionary or breakthrough technologies.

Under the Reference case, domestic crude oil production is expected to grow by more than 20% over the coming decade; already, domestic crude oil production increased from 5.1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010. Over the next 10 years, continued development of tight oil (e.g., shale oil) combined with the development of offshore Gulf of Mexico resources are projected to push domestic crude oil production to 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020, a level not seen since 1994.

Other findings from the AEO2012 Reference case include:

  • US production of natural gas is expected to exceed consumption early in the next decade. The United States is projected to become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016, a net pipeline exporter in 2025, and an overall net exporter of natural gas in 2021. The outlook reflects increased use of LNG in markets outside of North America, strong domestic natural gas production, reduced pipeline imports and increased pipeline exports, and relatively low natural gas prices in the United States compared to other global markets.

  • Use of renewable fuels and natural gas for electric power generation rises. The natural gas share of electric power generation increases from 24% in 2010 to 27% in 2035, and the renewables share grows from 10% to 16% over the same period.

    In recent years, the US electric power sector’s historical reliance on coal-fired power plants has begun to decline. Over the next 25 years, the projected coal share of overall electricity generation falls to 39%, well below the 49% share seen as recently as 2007, because of slow growth in electricity demand, continued competition from natural gas and renewable plants, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations.

  • Total US energy-related CO2 emissions remain below their 2005 level through 2035. Energy-related CO2 emissions grow by 3% from 2010 to 2035, reaching 5,806 million metric tons in 2035. They are more than 7% below their 2005 level in 2020 and do not return to the 2005 level of 5,996 million metric tons by the end of the projection period.

    Emissions per capita fall by an average of 1% per year from 2005 to 2035, as growth in demand for transportation fuels is moderated by higher energy prices and Federal fuel economy standards.

    Proposed fuel economy standards covering model years 2017 through 2025 that are not included in the Reference case would further reduce projected energy use and emissions. Electricity-related emissions are tempered by appliance and lighting efficiency standards, State renewable portfolio standard requirements, competitive natural gas prices that dampen coal use by electric generators, and implementation of the Cross-state Air Pollution Rule.

  • World oil prices rise in the Reference case, as pressure from growth in global demand continues. In 2035, the average real price of crude oil in the Reference case is $146 per barrel in 2010 dollars. World liquids consumption grows from 87.1 million barrels per day in 2010 to 109.7 million barrels per day in 2035, driven by growing demand in China, India, the Middle East and other developing economies.

  • Total US primary energy consumption, which was 101.4 quadrillion Btu in 2007, grows from 98.2 quadrillion Btu in 2010 to 108.0 quadrillion Btu in 2035. The fossil fuel share of energy consumption falls from 83% of total US energy demand in 2010 to 77% in 2035.

  • Net imports of energy meet a declining share of total US energy demand as domestic energy production increases. The projected net import share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2035 is 13%, compared with 22% in 2010 and 29% in 2007.

The full AEO2012 report, including projections with differing assumptions on the price of oil, the rate of economic growth, and the characteristics of new technologies, will be released in late Spring 2012, along with regional projections.



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This corresponds to the 25+ years required for USA to pull out of the current Wall Street made financial/economic crisis.


I have learned to be wary of EIA projections. The fuel consumption numbers for 2035 look suspect, they seem way too low to me. I would like to see their numbers for 2020 and 2030. They seem to be projecting great efficiency gains in cars and light trucks that may not be there.


The underlined driver is the much lower USA economic activity growth in the next 25+ years. A similar study on China and India would show a very different picture.


like said above these are projections in the future, and projection always lie, so many things can happen in the next 25 years..maybe EV PHEV will really catch up, maybe biofuels will soar, maybe efficiency will be bumped, who knows..maybe peak oil will be so hard that we will drive much less, but one thing for sure, business will not be as usual..


They made the assumption the laws would not change over time, which seems like a risky assumption.



Any model has limitations. This model assumes "business as usual". There are no mo development options included. That is up to politicians change "business as usual" scenario.


You could go through a probably scenario based on previous events, but they assume nothing will change between now and 2035, which I do not consider much of a model.

Stan Peterson

The EIA has confirmed my statements that y'all constantly criticize.

Oil demand in the US is plummeting. And domestic production is rising. So imports are suffering from a double whammy, and are declining to an estimated 13% of demand in their projections.

They also confirm that our man made reported CO2 emissions are approaching the reduced levels sought in the Kyoto Agreement that we never even agreed to meet. These estimates are wholly cockeyed, as they don't report any CO2 consumption by our Flora Kingdom which is expanding and greening North America as reported by NASA satellites.

We are very close to meeting the phony Kyoto targets even now. If we really include the effect of the natural CO2 absorption, North America as shown by the published research of the Princeton scientific researchers, is becoming an even greater sink of CO2 by bio-sequestration and emits less than Zero CO2 on net.

Not that it makes any difference as the the evidence of the 21st century Science calibrates and increasingly reveals the qualitative fears of CAGW, of the mid 20th century were groundless.

Please note that the EIA does not include any improvements in fuel economy or electrification for the vehicle fleet beyond the 2016 targets. Those targets which may have been met in Model Year 2011, and if not will be met in Model year 2012, at the latest.

The USA and the World is NOT going to hell in a hand-basket, as the professional green Cassandras maintain, in order to extract more money from you.

HarveyD may be part of a large group who has not yet realized that USA's (and many other countries) economy is in deep trouble for at least another 10+ years. The huge debt that we have put ourselves and our governments in during the last 30+ years will have very negative effects on the next generations.

For the first time in many decades, people in the future (next-current) generation are poorer than people in the preceding generation. The 30+ million without a good paying job or without a decent retirement fund are definitely poorer than they were. In other words, the wealth of the majority has been going down for the last 10+ years and will not fully catch up for a decade or more.

In a certain way, it is a lot like 1929-1941. Will we need WW-III to pull out of it or are we smart enough to do it without a major war, this time around.

Roger Pham

"In a certain way, it is a lot like 1929-1941. Will we need WW-III to pull out of it or are we smart enough to do it without a major war, this time around."

No need for WW-III. Rapid development of renewable energy to replace all fossil fuel utilization will create the economic growth equivalence of WW-III without loss of lives or properties. Stricter environmental regulations will create even more jobs...clean-up jobs and anti-pollution jobs.

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