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U.S. reliance on imported liquid fuels falls due to increased domestic production — including biofuels, while domestic shale gas resources support increased natural gas production with moderate prices, but assumptions about resources and recoverability are key uncertain factors.
These are the key results highlighted in the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 the U.S. Energy Information Administration has recently released. The EIA paper includes 57 sensitivity cases that show how different assumptions regarding market, policy, and technology drivers affect projections of energy production, consumption, technology, and market trends and the direction they may take in the future.
U.S. reliance on imported liquid fuels falls due to increased domestic production – including biofuels – and greater fuel efficiency. Although U.S. consumption of liquid fuels is expected to continue growing through 2035, reliance on petroleum imports as a share of total liquids consumption decreases. Total U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035. The import share, which reached 60 percent in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 51 percent in 2009, falls to 42 percent in 2035. Sensitivity cases illustrate opportunities for further reductions in U.S. reliance on imported liquid fuels through additional increases in fuel efficiency or domestic liquid fuels production.
Domestic shale gas resources support increased natural gas production with moderate prices, but assumptions about resources and recoverability are key uncertain factors. Shale gas production continues to increase strongly through 2035, growing almost fourfold from 2009 to 2035 when it makes up 47 percent of total U.S. Production – up considerably from the 16-percent share in 2009.
Estimates of technically recoverable resources and well productivity of shale resources remain highly uncertain, despite the larger share of informations and datas which have become available as a result of increased drilling activity. Over the past decade, as more shale formations have gone into commercial production, the estimate of technically and economically recoverable shale gas resources has skyrocketed. However, the increases in recoverable shale gas resources embody many assumptions that might prove to be incorrect over the long term.
Proposed environmental regulations could alter the power generation fuel mix. The EPA is expected to enact several key regulations in the coming decade that will have an impact on the U.S. power sector, particularly the fleet of coal-fired power plants. Because the rules have not yet been finalized, their impacts cannot be fully analyzed, and they are not included in the Reference case.
Assuming no changes in policy related to greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide emissions grow slowly. Energy-related CO2 emissions grow slowly in the AEO2011 Reference case due to a combination of modest economic growth, growing use of renewable technologies and fuels, efficiency improvements, slow growth in electricity demand, and more use of natural gas, which is less carbon-intensive than other fossil fuels.