According to two new energy reports issued today, clean energy enjoyed a record-breaking year in the United States, but unless policies change dramatically, oil and gas will continue to dominate the US energy market for the next three decades.
According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual energy outlook, the United States, the world’s leading oil and gas producer, would continue to generate record volumes of crude oil and gas until 2050 if current trends continue. Unless something changes, petroleum and gas will continue to be the country’s “most-consumed” energy sources until the middle of the century. “Though renewables are growing faster, there is still a significant established base of fossil fuel use that we just do not anticipate relinquishing its dominance until 2050, at least not without some type of governmental intervention,” said Stephen Nalley, acting EIA administrator, in a webinar.
The Biden administration has set a goal of practically ending greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in keeping with the Paris climate agreement’s aims and what a large body of science has demonstrated is required globally to avoid a significantly worsening climate problem. Moving away from polluting fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind farms is the only way to achieve this.
There has been some progress in that direction, but not nearly enough. According to a new report released today by BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, clean energy smashed multiple milestones in the United States in 2021.
Last year, private investment in renewable energy and batteries, electric transportation, and hydrogen and carbon capture technologies that could help clean up hard-to-abate pollution from heavy industries reached a new high of $105 billion. Developers added an additional 37 GW of wind and solar producing capacity, helping renewables set a new record for the amount of electricity they supplied to the power grid. Electric car sales also increased between 2020 and 2021.
Even still, renewable energy accounts for just over 20% of the US power sector, while gas accounts for over double that. That implies the Biden administration has a long way to go to achieve its target of a 100% renewable energy sector by 2035. According to a research issued last month by industry group American Clean Power, yearly wind, solar, and energy storage installations must expand at roughly twice the rate they did in 2021 to fulfill the 2035 target.
Last year, Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes an investment of $80 billion in clean energy technologies, including new transmission lines that are critical for transporting energy from far-flung wind and solar farms to cities and towns. However, much of Biden’s remaining ambitions to clean up the electricity grid are tethered to the dormant budget reconciliation measure that Democrats have been wrangling over for months. Proposals to establish federal clean energy standards and penalize utilities that continue to use dirty energy have previously been abandoned. The latest version of the plan still includes important renewable energy tax incentives, but they are in jeopardy because the package is blocked in Congress.
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