This is the fourth in a five-part sponsored series by BP about America’s changing energy landscape.
Over the past 20 years, technology has fundamentally remade energy in the United States, reshaping America’s fuel mix, creating significant domestic energy surpluses, and pushing down U.S. carbon emissions along the way.
Here are five points on how technology is reshaping the American energy landscape.
Technology has turned the U.S. into an energy superpower.
New energy extraction technologies have turned the U.S. into the top producer of natural gas in the world. The same technologies have also spurred a dramatic increase in U.S. oil production. American technological innovations, backed by supportive public policy, have driven these gains. The U.S. now finds itself with something that seemed unthinkable a generation ago: significant energy surpluses. The country will be oil self-sufficient by the 2030s, and will soon start exporting its surplus oil and natural gas to the rest of the world. While similar resources are spread around the world, experts believe that comparable gains are unlikely to be replicated quickly outside of North America.
Innovations are also increasing the use of renewables.
Currently, renewable energy is expensive compared with other, more carbon-intensive fuel options, such as coal. But technology is increasing the efficiency of renewables and driving down costs. Over the next 20 years, renewable energy use will likely grow by 194 percent. As technologies become more efficient and prices fall, new economies of scale will make energy sources such as onshore wind farms and solar panels increasingly price competitive with traditional energy sources.
New technologies are making the U.S. more energy efficient.
In 20 years, the U.S. will use energy nearly 40 percent more efficiently than it does today, and per capita energy consumption will fall to its lowest level on record. This drop is being driven in part by new technologies that allow Americans to use traditional energy sources more efficiently. The trend is particularly pronounced in the transportation sector, where oil consumption will likely fall by 22 percent over the next 20 years, primarily because of new technologies that increase vehicle fuel economy. Greater fuel economy will, in turn, help produce a double-digit drop in overall U.S. oil consumption. Technologies such as smart thermostats and energy efficient light bulbs are expected to drive similar efficiencies in the power sector.
New technologies are also driving down carbon emissions.
Ongoing innovation is changing the energy sector in myriad ways. But whether those new technologies open greater access to nontraditional energy reserves, drive down the price of renewables, or increase efficiency in power consumption, the common denominator is that they are all driving a historic decline in carbon emissions. In 20 years, U.S. carbon emissions will reach levels not seen since 1986.
Innovation will continue to push the energy sector into new frontiers.
Over the next several decades, ongoing innovation will drive ever-increasing efficiencies in energy consumption and production. Homes will be filled with smart devices such as wifi-connected washers and dryers, and big data will drive the next generation of energy innovation. BP, for its part, recently installed the world’s largest supercomputer in Houston, which will help the company find and extract energy more safely and accurately. The supply of traditional energy sources may be finite, but there are no such limits on future technological innovation.