HDRCARBNS N NRTH AERCA1 THE PST CARBN READER SERES
North America is at the top of the food chain whenit comes to consuming energy: Its inhabitants havenearly four times the average global per capita energyconsumption.
Although Mexicans consume less thanthe global average, Americans consume 4.5 times andCanadians nearly 6 times as much. In absolute num-bers, we in North America consume one-quarter of the world’s primary energy production, even though wemake up less than 7 percent of the world’s population.North America’s massive energy diet is largely madeup of hydrocarbons—a full 83 percent comes from oil,gas, and coal, and if we include nuclear energy, 91 per-cent comes from nonrenewable fuel sources. In 2008,North America consumed 27 percent of the world’s oil production, 25 percent of natural gas production, and18 percent of coal production. Most of the rest of ourenergy consumption was derived from nuclear powerand large hydropower, with renewable energy sourcessuch as biomass, wind, photovoltaics, and geothermalmaking up less than 2 percent of our total. Moreover,despite a several-fold growth in non-hydropowerrenewable energy sources,
nonrenewable sources arestill forecast to supply 88 percent of our primary energyconsumption by 2030 (figure 17.1).The sheer scale of our dependency on nonrenewable,energy-dense “fossilized sunshine” is often lost onthose who believe that renewable energy sources cansupplant hydrocarbons at anything like today’s levelof energy consumption. Thus it is prudent to examinethe prognosis for fossil fuels within North America,as they will make up the bulk of our energy consump-tion for many decades to come.
The North Americanfossil-fuel story is largely driven by consumption in theUnited States, the biggest user of energy in the worldand, until China overtook it in 2006, the biggest car-bon dioxide emitter. Also critical to this story is the vulnerability of the U.S. economy given its addictionto hydrocarbons. It is highly dependent on importedoil and may soon be dependent on imported natural
Nonrenewable energysources are forecast to supply88 percent of our primaryenergy consumption by 2030.
Q u a d r i l l i o n B t u p e r Y e a r
N o n r e n e w a b l e 8 8 %
20% growth 2009–2030OilNatural GasCoalNuclearHydro/Renewables
History and forecasts of North American energy consumption by fuel,1990–2030.
Source: Data from U.S. Energy nformation Administration,
InternationalEnergy Outlook 2009