Energy Consumption History: Global Trends & Implications

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  • 0:01 World Energy Consumption
  • 1:18 Monitoring Energy Consumption
  • 2:22 Energy Use Trends
  • 3:39 Energy Use Implications
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Simply put, our world depends on energy. But the way we use energy changes through time. In this lesson, you'll learn about world energy consumption, who keeps track of it, and what implications that information has for our global energy future.

World Energy Consumption

Our lives are powered by a variety of energy sources. We use electricity to run the appliances in our homes, which may come from sources such as coal, natural gas, or nuclear power. We use fossil fuels to run our vehicles. We also use a number of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

If you wanted to, you could figure out how much energy you use on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. This would provide you with information about your energy consumption, allowing you to see trends and possibly even make changes to how much energy you use in the future.

We can do the same type of analysis with world energy consumption, which is all of the energy consumed by the entire global population. This metric is generally measured on a yearly basis. It's very important to study this information because by looking at both past trends and current consumption, we can get an idea of the implications for future energy sources and uses. Some of our most important energy sources only exist in a limited supply on Earth, so having this type of information can help us make more sustainable energy choices, both now and in the future.

Monitoring Energy Consumption

With over seven billion people on the planet, keeping track of all that energy consumption is no small feat. The International Energy Agency, or IEA, is one organization that's up to the challenge. Founded in response to the 1973-74 oil crisis, the goal of this organization is to ensure reliable, affordable, and clean energy, focusing on energy security, economic development, environmental awareness, and engagement throughout the world. Twenty-nine different countries make up the IEA, including the U.S. and Canada.

There's also the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA. This is an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy that collects, analyzes, and shares energy information for both policymaking and public understanding. The EIA provides information on many different types of energy, such as coal, natural gas, electric, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.

Energy Use Trends

In general, world energy consumption has been increasing over the years, especially consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas. According to the IEA, from 1990 - 2008, world energy consumption increased 39%, with a majority of the increase occurring in places like the Middle East, China, and India. However, due to the financial crisis, in 2009, world energy consumption decreased by 1.1%, the first decrease in global consumption in 30 years.

The EIA predicts that this trend of increased world energy consumption will continue into the future. In a recent report, it predicts that world energy consumption will increase by an incredible 56% from now until the year 2040! What's really interesting is that most of this growth will occur in developing countries instead of developed ones. Of this predicted increase, fossil fuels (especially natural gas) will continue to be major sources of our energy consumption - about 80% in fact. However, renewable energy sources, as well as nuclear power, are working hard to keep up and are the fastest-growing energy sources around the globe.

Energy Use Implications

These trends and predictions give us some serious food for thought for several reasons. For example, fossil fuels are not renewable resources - there's only so much we can extract before it becomes too costly and difficult to do so. They are also major sources of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to global warming and climate change. So, while these energy sources might make up a majority of our global energy consumption, they can't sustain us forever, and we'll need to find alternatives as our demand for energy continues to grow.

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