IEA projects that, thanks mainly to hydraulic fracturing, the United States will become the world's biggest oil producer by 2017, a net exporter of natural gas by 2020, and will be almost energy self-sufficient by 2035. But as Ed Matthew, director of the think tank Transform UK, has warned: "Energy independence will not increase national security in the US if it leads to runaway climate change."
And therein lies the profoundly troubling news.
Fossil fuels still dominate the global energy mix. While shale gas can be a bridge fuel and is essential even in optimistic projections on renewable energy use, IEA says that the projected growth in renewables won’t be enough to meet the United Nations goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). We are likely heading for triple that warming.
IEA says that almost 80 percent of the emissions allowable by 2035 under a 2-degree scenario are already locked in because of existing energy use patterns, and all the allowable emissions will be locked in by 2017 if no action is taken to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Even a massive investment in largely-ignored energy efficiency would push back the lock in date by only about 5 years, IEA says.
The current course is unsustainable, deeply troubling, and may be deadly.