Press Release: New Report Discusses Importance of Climate Policy to Future U.S. Energy Picture

For Immediate Release
July 10, 2003

Contact:   Katie Mandes

Future U.S. Energy Scenarios: New Report Discusses Importance of Climate Policy to Future U.S. Energy Picture

Washington, DC -Absent a mandatory carbon cap, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are likely to rise across a wide range of possible energy futures, according to a new report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, U.S. Energy Scenarios for the 21st Century. The report, written by Irving Mintzer, J. Amber Leonard, and Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network, discusses three divergent paths for U.S. energy supply and use from 2000 through 2035, and the effect of climate policy on the three scenarios.

"This report suggests that technology research and development efforts coupled with voluntary measures cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it highlights the need for a mandatory climate change policy to address carbon emissions - regardless of how the future unfolds," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The Pew Center scenarios explore what might happen to U.S. energy supply and use in the future. They are not predictions, but they cover a wide range of possible energy futures. The scenarios are Awash in Oil and Gas, driven by cheap and abundant oil and gas; Turbulent World, in which energy supply disruptions and threats to energy facilities lead to aggressive energy policy measures; and Technology Triumphs, in which state policies, technological breakthroughs, private investment, and consumer interest push and pull climate-friendly technologies into the marketplace.

The question of how U.S. energy supply and use - which account for over 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions - will evolve over the next several decades is critical to developing sound U.S. climate policy. To answer this question, the Pew Center convened two workshops with members of its Business Environmental Leadership Council and experts from the academic and NGO sectors to envision possible future energy scenarios and to draw policy-relevant conclusions from them. This report includes discussion of these three scenarios, as well as assessments of key energy technologies for the future. Three significant insights emerged:

Without a mandatory carbon constraint, the absolute level of U.S. emissions rises in the range of 15 to 50 percent over the year 2000 level in each of the Pew Center scenarios, despite the fact that the carbon intensity of the economy declines considerably. This result points to a key conclusion of this report - policy is necessary to stem these increases and to address climate change.

A second conclusion of the report is that no matter which direction the future takes there are technologies-with supporting policies and investments-that could address climate change, accelerate capital stock turnover, and enhance energy security. If U.S. decision-makers can implement the necessary policies and encourage appropriate investments during the next thirty years, the United States would be better positioned to achieve multiple public policy goals.

Finally, the scenarios indicate that energy policy and investment decisions made today affect the difficulty of implementing a climate policy tomorrow.
"With the appropriate set of policies and investments during the next thirty years, the United States could be better positioned to achieve its complementary economic, energy security, and environmental goals," said Claussen. The Pew Center now plans to turn to an exploration of what ought to happen, now and in the future, towards developing a national vision of policies, strategies and investments that will help achieve these goals.

Solutions Series
This report is part of the Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts, and the economics of climate change.


The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.