Monday, December 17, 2012

Possible Energy Independence In 10-20 Years With Shale Gas

Dec 10: The National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) recently released a report indicating that the world of 2030 will be "radically transformed from our world today." The quadrennial report by the Intelligence Community's top analysts, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, projects that by 2030 the U.S. most likely will remain "first among equals" among the other great powers, due to the legacy of its leadership role in the world and the dominant role it has played in international politics across the board in both hard and soft power. The replacement of the U.S. by another global power and construction of a new international order is an unlikely outcome in this time period.

    Nevertheless, the report says that with the rapid rise of other countries, the "unipolar moment" is over and no country -- whether the U.S., China, or any other country -- "will be a hegemonic power." In terms of the indices of overall power -- GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment -- Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined.

    The empowerment of individuals, the diffusion of power among states, and from states to informal networks, will have a dramatic impact bringing a growing democratization, at both the international and domestic level. Additionally, it is reported that two other "megatrends" will shape the world out to 2030: Demographic patterns especially rapid aging and growing demands on resources such as food and water, which might lead to scarcities. These trends, which exist today, are projected to gain momentum over the coming 15-20 years.

    The report identifies six "tectonic shifts" -- critical changes to key features of the global environment -- underpinning the megatrends that will affect how the world works. One positive "shift" sees energy independence for the U.S. in as short a period as 10 to 20 years due to abundant quantities of shale gas. This is the second report in recent weeks to discuss U.S. energy independence [See WIMS 11/13/12]. On November 12, the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO) and sais 
the global energy map is changing in dramatic fashion. That Agency's flagship publication, released in London, said the extraordinary growth in oil and natural gas output in the United States will mean "a sea-change in global energy flows." WEO's central scenario, the United States could become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020, and "almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035."
    The ODNI report indicates a more sinister "shift" could be the wider access to lethal and disruptive technologies such as bioterror weapons and cyber instruments, which could offer a means for individuals and small groups to inflict large-scale violence and disruption. The report also outlines six key "game-changers" -- questions regarding the global economy, governance, conflict, regional instability, technology and the role of the U.S. -- which will largely determine what kind of transformed world will be inhabited in 2030. The game-changers include: The Crisis-Prone Global Economy; The Governance Gap; Potential for Increased Conflict; Wider Scope of Regional Instability; The Impact of New Technologies; and The Role of the United States.

    Following the precedent in earlier editions of Global Trends, the current edition sketches out future models for the world out to 2030: "Stalled Engines," "Fusion," "Gini Out-of-the-Bottle," and "Nonstate World." As with previous editions, none of these alternative worlds are inevitable and in reality, the future will probably consist of elements from all the scenarios.  
    One of the "Megatrends" analyzed includes the Growing food, water,and energy nexus. The report indicates: "The increasing nexus among food, water, and energy -- in combination with climate change -- will have far-reaching effects on global development over the next 15-20 years. In a tectonic shift, demand for these resources will grow substantially owing to an increase in the global population from 7.1 billion today to 8.3 billion by 2030. As we have discussed, an expanding middle class and swelling urban populations will increase pressures on critical resources -- particularly food and water -- but new technologies -- such as 'vertical' farming in high-rise structures which also reduce transportation costs -- could help expand needed resources. Food and water security is being aggravated by changing weather conditions outside of expected norms. We are not necessarily headed into a world of scarcities, but policymakers and their private sector partners will need to be proactive to avoid scarcities in the future. . ."

    The NIC publishes a new edition of Global Trends every four years, in a presidential election year, to assist the next -- in this case the returning -- administration in its strategic review. This is the fifth edition of Global Trends beginning with "Global Trends 2010." As with previous reports, it does not seek to predict the future, but instead provides a framework for thinking about possible futures -- assessing key trends and their implications.  

    Global Trends 2030 has been the largest collaborative effort of all the editions relying on a diversity of perspectives to enrich the work. The NIC held many meetings with government officials, businesses, universities and think tanks and reached out to experts in 20 countries. One benefit has been growing interest elsewhere in global trends: Several governments and organizations now prepare similar reports, helping to inform the NIC's work.

    Access a release from NIC (click here). Access the complete 160-page report (click here). Access an overview and link to the report in various formats and previous issues (click here). [#Energy, #Water]
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