Vaclav Smil tells us how oil intensity has decreased in the US economy over the past 45 years. In 1985 the US economy needed 37% less oil to produce a dollar of GDP than it had in 1970. By 2000 that number was down 53%, and by 2014 it was 62% lower. This indicates the substantial declining presence of oil in the US economy. Globally oil’s intensity is declining as well. We are burning less liquid fuels to generate electricity, using coal instead of fuel oil in blast furnaces, increasing the fuel efficiency of our automobiles, lowering the consumption of kerosene in jet engines, and improving the efficiency of our industrial production processes.

World crude oil prices fell to their lowest since 2009 as the US benchmark price, West Texas crude, dropped below $37 a barrel this week. Currencies of major oil exporting nations such as the Canadian dollar, the Norwegian crown  and the Russian rouble are falling and will continue to suffer as oil heads toward $30.

According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, about 20% of new cars sold around the world are diesel-powered. Diesel accounts for about half of all new passenger vehicles sold in Europe and India and reaches double-digit penetration rates in Australia and South Korea. However it only accounts for about 1% to 2% of new car sales in the US, Canada, Japan and China. The primary reason for diesel’s success in Europe and lack of success in North America is different government emissions standards. In Europe diesel emission standards are lower than those for gasoline-powered cars. In contrast, emission regulations in the US and Canada require both fuels to meet the same standards, which raises the cost of diesel cars made for the North American market. Now Europe is introducing tougher emissions standards, which could require more expensive control systems in diesel cars and hence reduce the number of diesel cars sold in that region going forward.

By 2030 China is expected to become one of the largest nuclear energy users in the world with 110 nuclear reactors operational at that time. China currently has 31 nuclear reactors running and 21 more are under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Australian state of South Australia is expected to pass its 50% renewable energy target next year. Its last coal-fired power generator is due to close this coming March and will be replaced by large wind farms and rooftop solar. The state plans to be 100% renewable by 2050 by electrifying its bus and private car network and offering incentives to encourage battery storage in homes and businesses.

According to estimates, there will be $12.2 trillion in cumulative spending worldwide towards electric power projects from now to 2040 with renewables accounting for 65% of that expenditure or $8 trillion.

The Environment California Research and Policy Center released a report saying that wind now generates electricity for 1.2 million homes in that US state.

In 2014 the Asia-Pacific region had 140 gigawatts of installed onshore and offshore wind power. The region expects to double this number over the next 5 years. While China has dominated the overall wind market in terms of capacity, generation, and revenue, India will be the fastest growing country for the remainder of this decade. In addition to China and India, the region includes South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, and Malaysia.

China wants to increase is solar capacity from 28 gigawatts (GW) in 2014 (about 2% of the country’s total electric power capacity) to 100 GW by 2020. However, to reach this goal it is going to have to find a way of substantially increasing the number of solar panels on small rooftops in residential areas.  As of 2014 small-scale installations accounted for just 17% of China’s installed solar capacity compared with 70% for Germany.

Middle East and North African countries are expected to invest $670 billion in renewable energy over the next 25 years. In order to decrease its dependence on natural gas, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is spending $40 billion on nuclear energy, with one 1.4-gigawatt reactor planned to come online each year between 2017 and 2020. The UAE wants renewables to account for at least 10% of its energy mix by 2030.

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