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There is a broad, global focus today on energy as an economic, geopolitical and strategic resource. Some of the world's leading nations, such as
Brazil, are intent on fully developing their oil and gas production. Others, such as
China, are focused on purchasing interests in foreign reserves and expertise. Advanced technologies, including 3D seismic, hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, have opened up exceptional new levels of oil and gas discovery and production around the world.
In addition, there is a greater focus than ever before on the impact of energy production and consumption on the environment. Certain nations, particularly the UK and those in the EU, have very ambitious goals to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Worldwide, investment in the development and implementation of clean or renewable energy technologies, as well as energy conservation, will be a major priority of many governments and industries. However, this level of interest may be subject to fluctuations in the economy and the price of crude oil and natural gas. The emphasis will vary widely from nation to nation, ranging from cleaner ways to burn the world's immense stores of coal; to the construction of advanced-technology nuclear generating plants that are exponentially safer than older models; to the use of advanced, more cost-effective renewable technologies based on solar, wind and wave power.
Nonetheless, with the exception of hydroelectric power, renewable energy sources remain vastly more costly to implement than fossil fuel-based generators (primarily coal and natural gas). This means that they require significant government subsidies, loan guarantees or incentives in order to cover the costs. As governments in developed economies in
Europe, along with
the United States, continue to struggle with large deficits and debts, their willingness to back costly renewable energy projects may be dampened significantly.
Japan, on the other hand, while facing economic challenges, will maintain a keen interest in alternative energy sources, since it has essentially no fossil fuel supplies of its own and it has changed strategies due to its nuclear disaster of
The most important emerging nations are investing heavily in alternative energy sources, while continuing to use growing quantities of fossil fuels.
China leads the world in investment in new nuclear plants, and it is installing vast numbers of wind turbines and solar facilities.
India is likewise planning multiple new nuclear plants.
Brazil continues to be a leader in the low cost production and use of ethanol as a transportation fuel, while developing some of the world's most important new offshore oil and gas fields.
Despite immense demand for energy, supply will remain abundant for the foreseeable future. Better science, technology and engineering are being applied to exploration, production, conservation and distribution alike, with great success. Mature economies such as
the United States and leading nations in
Europe are benefitting greatly from the world's rapidly growing supplies of natural gas (with the growth in supply coming largely from shale formations) as well as a steady supply of crude oil (with steady growth in shale oil fields, deep offshore wells and
Canada's tar sands). Conversely, total energy usage in these mature economies is on a path of decline or slow growth. For example, analysts at BP estimate that American consumption of primary energy sources (such as coal, natural gas and crude oil) declined by a bit more than 1% from 2000 to 2010.
China, however, the same measure increased by 134%, while the increase was 77% in
India. Emerging economies will burn vast amounts of coal and other fossil fuels while their total energy usage continues to soar. This is where the growth in consumption, and related emissions and pollution, is essentially unavoidable for the near future in rapidly rising economies that are adopting modern industrialization, transportation (including millions of new automobiles yearly), business services and housing, with all of the energy consumption that such development demands.
Dramatic shifts in the global energy supply are occurring.
Iraq, home to some of the world's largest oil reserves, is expected to begin significant increases in production thanks to increased foreign investment. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that
Iraq's output will grow from 3 million barrels per day in 2012 to 6 million by 2020, and 8 million by 2035.
The IEA forecast in late 2012 that
the United States will become almost self-sufficient in energy by 2035, on a net basis accounting for imports and exports. This is due largely to growing oil and gas output, but also to increasing efficiency and conservation as well as renewables. The IEA further forecast that the U.S. would be the world's leading oil producer by 2017, overtaking
Saudi Arabia and
Russia. This trend is accelerated by the boom in oil shale fields such as the Eagle Ford in
Texas and the Baaken in the
Meanwhile, very exciting technologies continue to bolster nearly all facets of the energy sector, from green technologies applied to electricity conservation, to tremendous advances in oil and gas exploration technologies, to highly evolved safer nuclear technologies. At the same time, many renewable energy technologies, such as thin-film solar, concentrated solar and wave power to name but a few, are also making significant advances thanks to substantial improvements in engineering and design. Nanotechnology, an exciting materials science, is about to find broad applications in energy production and consumption with tremendous results.