by June 3, 2013 at 8:00 am 0

From John Shannon, who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]


Cleaner energy and cleaner air by mid-century? (Courtesy

Most of the world’s energy supply is fossil fuel-based — 86.2%. However, that statistic is set for unprecedented change as recent successes in renewable energy foretell of a cleaner energy future.

World energy consumption increases every year, while the kinds of energy we use is changing, and environmental standards are (unequally) improving worldwide.

In short, we are using more energy — but it is “cleaner” energy.

For instance, half of the added electrical capacity every year comes from renewable energy. And with major political initiatives in many countries promoting renewable energy, it is realistic to think that the share of renewables will increase over the coming decades.

Natural Gas Boom

Even major petroleum companies are changing their ways.

A recent, landmark report by Royal Dutch Shell illustrates a dramatically new order among the various kinds of energy and how the energy we use will change over the next 80 to 90 years. In Shell’s “New Lens Scenarios – A Shift in Perspective for a World in Transition” the company discusses two different scenarios, named “Mountains” and “Oceans” in our global energy future.

The boom in natural gas figures prominently, with natural gas quickly ramping up to become the number one type of energy in the world by 2030.

“The underlying pent-up demand for gas is very strong… we see it being sucked up, every molecule.” – Jeremy Bentham, the main author of Shell’s “New Lens Scenarios – A Shift in Perspective for a World in Transition,” talking about the anticipated level of demand for natural gas between now and 2030

21st Century Trends

  • Solar energy becomes the dominant kind of energy by the mid-2060s supplying 38% of all demand worldwide. By 2060, the report has PV solar power moving from today’s 13th place, into 1st place, to provide at least 38% of global energy demand. (See “Shell Sees Solar As The Biggest Energy Source After Exiting It in 2009.“)
  • Due to enhanced carbon capture and storage and clean combustion technology, “Global emissions of carbon dioxide dropping to near zero by 2100.”
  • Shell’s “New Lens Scenarios” states, “By 2100, energy from oil will account for only 10% of worldwide energy use and natural gas will account for just 7.5 percent of the global total.”

While the “energy produced to emissions released ratio” looks utterly dreadful over the short term, over the long term it looks quite wonderful. If only we had a time machine to take us to the latter half of this century, we could all go for a nice breath of fresh air.

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