World energy consumption is forecast to increase by 44 percent from 2006 to 2030, with almost two-thirds of that coming from developing countries and fossil fuels that continue to dominate energy supply, according to the Energy Information Administration's 2009 outlook report [pdf] released today.

Developing countries are projected to increase demand by 73 percent by 2030 in the outlook's base reference case -- EIA's analysis under current laws and policies -- whereas developed countries will grow by 15 percent, the report says.

Oil prices will return to $110 per barrel in 2015 and go up to $130 per barrel in 2030 in the base reference case, although in the high-price reference case they could reach $200 per barrel, depending on supply, EIA said. In the high-price reference case, potential supply reaches 90 million barrels per day, but in the low-price reference case, supply reaches 120 million barrels per day, according to the outlook. All three projections' prices are significantly higher than in the 2008 outlook.

Liquids -- including biofuels -- will continue to be the primary energy source in the world's transportation sector unless there are "significant technological advances" and despite several policy changes, EIA said.

Unconventional resources such as oil sands and biofuels will become increasingly competitive, accounting for about 13 percent of the world's liquid supply by 2030, the report said. The United States will particularly see an increase in biofuels, mostly in advanced cellulosic rather than corn-based ethanol, acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht said at the report's release event in Washington.

World natural gas and coal consumption will also continue to rise, especially in developing countries, the report says. China is expected to triple its coal-fired generating capacity by 2030, according to the report.

The United States will continue to grow as an important supplier of natural gas, projected to increase to 5.3 trillion cubic feet as unconventional gas plays such as the Marcellus Shale account for more than 50 percent of U.S. production by 2030, EIA said.

EIA predicts "much brighter prospects" for natural gas supply, keeping prices at about $8 per million British thermal units by 2030, compared with the International Energy Agency's outlook, which predicts $16 per million Btu by 2030, Gruenspecht said. He added that if hydraulic fracturing drilling is constrained -- as has been suggested by some lawmakers -- it could seriously affect the nation's ability to reach the unconventional natural gas. U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said last week that the agency may look into the environmental impact of the process, which some environmental groups say releases harmful chemicals into drinking water (E&E Daily, May 20).

"I think there is no question that gas growth in the United States in unconventional [plays] is all dependent on hydraulic fracturing," Gruenspecht said. "If one envisions a world where hydraulic fracturing is off the table, that would really change" the outlook, he said.

While the EIA report finds renewables are the fastest growing source of electricity, "coal and natural gas still fuel nearly two-thirds of the world electric generation in 2030," the report says.

Gruenspecht also noted that while EIA is still analyzing the current House Energy and Commerce Committee climate bill, the target of cutting 17 percent of carbon dioxide emissions below 2005 levels likely will not significantly alter the EIA's energy outlook.

"One could imagine you could comply with the 2020 proposal of a 17 percent cut just using offsets and not a significant change in use of energy at all," Gruenspecht said. "It doesn't necessarily cause huge changes in projections because a lot of countries are showing a huge energy demand. ... I'm not sure they are as committed to making these changes," he said.

Click here [pdf] to read the report.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500