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January 28, 2019   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

We Will Be In Liquid Fuels for a Long Time

While there has been quite a lot of attention on electrification of transportation, a new report from U.S. DOE's Energy Information Agency concludes that the U.S. and the global economy will rely on liquid fuels.


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency is out with its annual outlook that includes a forecast out to 2050. While there has been quite a lot of attention on electrification of transportation, the report concludes that the U.S. and the global economy will rely on liquid fuels. 

According to the Energy information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2019, U.S. refiners of liquid fuels that primarily includes gasoline and diesel fuel reached their peak production not seen since 1970. Refiners are expected to continue this expansion making the U.S. a net exporter of petroleum and petroleum products by 2020.  In fact, U.S. exports of diesel fuel is expected to spike over the next few years, thanks to newfound sources of energy that more than meet the needs of the U.S. economy.

Exports and Imports

The Annual Energy Outlook notes that we will have more electric passenger vehicles and more fuel efficient passenger vehicles helping to reduce consumption of gasoline over the next few decades. When it comes to moving freight and doing work, we will still rely on liquid fuels primarily diesel fuel (or distillate fuel in the chart below).

Consumption

Even with many more electric vehicles on the road, we will still be consuming liquid fuels. Why? Because of a growing U.S. economy. Trucks, trains, marine vessels and off-road equipment keep the U.S. economy moving. Today, these vehicles and equipment are powered by diesel and in the coming decades they are likely to continue to be powered by diesel fuel with one caveat... they will be much more efficient. It will take less fuel to move a big truck or locomotive in the coming years. Thanks to continued economic growth, it will take many more of these trucks and trains to get the job done. The number of freight-ton miles performed by commercial trucks in 2050 will grow by 53 percent or 155 billion ton miles. Similarly, freight rail will be asked to do more to support economic expansion. Freight rail will perform almost 20 percent more ton miles by 2050 or 371 billion miles.

It will take the power and energy density of diesel fuel to support the continued economic expansion today and through 2050. The diesel platform is the platform of work and that is not expected to change.  While we can expect the roll out of emerging technologies, diesel fuel and diesel technology will still be with us to make sure our economy continues to hum along.



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Key Contact

Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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