Meeting Energy Demand in the 21st Century: Many Challenges and Key Questions

GAO-05-414T Published: Mar 16, 2005. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 2005.
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Plentiful, relatively inexpensive energy has been the backbone of much of modern America's economic prosperity and the activities that essentially define our way of life. The energy systems that have made this possible, however, are showing increasing signs of strain and instability, and the consequences of our energy choices on the natural environment are becoming more apparent. The reliable energy mainstay of the 20th century seems less guaranteed in the 21st century. As a nation, we have witnessed profound growth in the use of energy over the past 50 years--nearly tripling our energy use in that time. Although the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world's population, we now consume about 25 percent of the energy used each year worldwide. Looking into the future, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. energy demand could increase by about another 30 percent over the next 20 years. To aid the subcommittee as it evaluates U.S. energy policies, GAO agreed to provide its views on energy supplies and energy demand as well as observations that have emerged from its energy work. This testimony is based on GAO's published work in this area, conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards, and on EIA's Annual Energy Review, 2003 and its Annual Energy Outlook, 2005.

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