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December 16, 2009

Investigative Journalists Take Issue with IER Analysis of Recent Energy Report

December 16, 2009
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Investigative journalists from Grist, the self-proclaimednation’s favorite independent source of green news and views,” recently tweeted some criticism about IER’s overview of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2010 Annual Energy Outlook.

One criticism was that we focused too heavily on EIA’s estimate that fossil energy will continue to be the dominant source of U.S. energy and economic growth for decades, accounting for nearly 80 percent of our energy needs in 2035, and neglected to mention that EIA also projects a significant increase in renewables.

In his tweet, one green journalist points out that the EIA report indicates renewables will increase by 20 percent. Actually, that’s an understatement. EIA predicts wind, solar, and some biomass (read: politically correct “renewable” sources) will increase by 88 percent[1]. That sounds impressive, but even with their dramatic increase EIA estimates that by 2035 these politically correct renewables will only produce about 8 percent of our total energy consumption. And that is despite billions of dollars in subsidies, set-asides, and preferential treatment.

In comparison, EIA estimates that our most efficient, proven, and prolific (albeit not as politically fashionable) sources of carbon-free and renewable energy – nuclear and hydroelectric power – together will provide for 10.8 percent of our energy needs in 2035 (2.6 percent from hydro and 8.2 percent from nuclear).

But how accurate are these forecasts? The EIA is taking a glimpse nearly 30 years into the future, after all.

The oldest Annual Energy Outlook on EIA’s website is from 1996. Their forecast for renewables’ slice of the energy pie in 2008 was 7.39%; the actual number last year was 7.36%. That’s very accurate, and of all the energy sources, their forecasts were the closest on renewable energy.

The question of whether their forecast will be that precise thirty years from now remains to be seen.  However, we’re confident it will be more accurate than many other projections we’ve seen over the years.

Although the EIA projects a large percentage increase in renewable energy by 2035, this will account for less than 10 percent of our total energy use. The American taxpayers have contributed billions of dollars to renewables for decades and yet EIA predicts they will continue to play a minor role in our energy supply thirty years from now.

[1] Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2010, Table A1,

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  • Marc Zimmerman


    I heard a commentator claim recently that if we in the U.S. totaled up all domestic reserves of coal, gas, shale, and oil, no country in the world would have more of these assets. Is this accurate? Do you know the source for this assertion?

    I am a college instructor and would like to use this piece of information, if it is accurate.

    Thank you.

    Marc Zimmerman
    Vancouver, WA

  • Francis M. Hughes

    Congratulations on your website; you do a fantastic job.
    The U.S. Department of Energy published a similar estimate as IER in their 2009 Annual Energy Outlook for future U.S. energy — stating that
    79 percent of that energy would be provided by fossil fuels in 2030. Perhaps our Grand Leader needs to put his imprimatur on the forecast for the greenies to accept, what is to them, a dreaded notion.
    I have read your comments on Interior Secretary’s fantasy of offshore wind power along the entire east coast. I use your estimates and comments whenever I write about the inadequacies of wind power as an alternative to fossil fuels. Since the Gulf of Mexico coastline is 1680 miles by itself, it is obviously not included in your calculations. Do you have any numbers on the number of bird guillotines per mile that would blight the coastline if the GOM were included?
    When much of the public didn’t buy the risk to beaches of offshore Florida oil drilling, Senator Bill Nelson reached deep into his bag of tricks to claim that a handful of rigs spread over the vast eastern Gulf would threaten military operations and training. That has since been disproven by an independent study, but what is mind boggling is the Senator’s silence on Salazar’s fantasy of 172 wind turbines per mile of coastline as a threat to military operations and training.
    I would appreciate any info you might have if the GOM was included. Thanks.

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