How good are our predictions of the next 30 years?

Posted on Thursday, May 6th, 02010 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
link Categories: Long Bets, Long Term Thinking   chat 0 Comments

From Craig et al., Can History teach us? A retrospective examination of long-term energy forecasts for the United States. Annu. Rev. Energy and Environment 27, 83(2002)

Stewart Brand sent in a piece by the Klimazweibel blog covered by Seekerblog.  It shows where the actual US energy consumption came in by 02000 vs the predictions from 01975.  It is interesting to see that we came in well below the lowest (read: most optimistic) prediction.  While the US still uses an amount of energy that would be unsustainable if adopted worldwide, it does look like all those energy efficiency programs that we started back in the seventies had a real impact…

  • This is a little unfair and perhaps even unwise. Presumably the reason we came in lower than predicted was *because* those predictions were so dire. That’s the unfair part.

    The unwise part is this: If we make it sound like people are “always overestimating how much energy we’ll use in the future” we *won’t* be convinced by those estimates to reduce our energy usage and the dire estimates will come true.

  • izzy

    I think it’s fair to say some of the energy-efficiency rules had some impact – different washers, better fridges, insulation – and some innovations – better windows and frames, hybrid vehicles, and microwaves.
    We used to define ourselves as women who cooked from scratch and men who went off to factory jobs – now we grab a pre-processed meal and sit at a computer. Which raises another question – how much of the differential is due to the changed nature of the U.S. as a country? Did those forecasts assume the U.S. would remain a dominant producer of goods?

  • Monk

    The bad news is that the U.S. isn’t the only country in the world. Car and appliance sales are rising in China, India, and the rest of the world.

    We’ve had a global production plateau since 2005 and a 3 pct drop in oil demand from OECD countries due to the economic crisis, but we are looking at 3 to 7 pct monthly increases in car and appliance sales for China, India, and other countries.

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