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Population Growth in America

August 30, 2010

Our growing population will continue to affect every segment of the economy and section of the country.

This shouldn’t be of great concern as we have already experienced significant population growth. The population of the United States in 1940, at the beginning of WWII, was 130 million. In 2000, the U.S. population was 300 million.

The expanding population has put pressure on schools and roads, but on balance the economy has risen to the challenge.

At issue will be how we accommodate an even larger population.

The census bureau estimates that the population of the United States will be 420 million in 2050, an increase of 137 million since the 2000 census. This is a growth rate of just under 1%.

Other organizations, such as Pew, have estimated that the U.S. population in 2050 will be as high as 438 million.

A larger population will affect the number of vehicles on the road, housing and the need of households for electricity.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast a 1% growth rate in demand for electricity through 2030. In view of population growth, the EIA’s projection would seem conservative. Presumably, the EIA has concluded that improvements in energy efficiency, such as from conservation, will offset increased electricity demand resulting from industrial and commercial growth.

A 1% growth rate in demand will require building new power plants with a total rating of 609,000 MW by 2050. This is a formidable task. It means adding over 15,000 MW every year for the next forty years, and this assumes that cap and trade legislation won’t be enacted and that the EPA will be prevented from implementing regulations on CO2 emissions.

If cap and trade or EPA regulations occur, it will be necessary to build many more new power plants to offset the reduced output of existing coal-fired power plants caused by regulations cutting CO2 emissions.

The additional cars on the road will mean increased oil consumption, which, in turn, will mean greater foreign oil imports unless we allow drilling for oil in the United States and along its coasts.

If Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) become popular, it will result in a further increase in demand for electricity, while offsetting increased oil imports. The impact of PHEVs will depend on how many are sold.

The increased population highlights the need for energy policies that support building new power plants and drilling for oil.

Improvements in energy efficiency are good, but they appear to have been built into the EIA’s forecast and won’t reduce the need for an additional 609,000 MW of capacity.

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