Opponents of plans to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions say they will add too much to the cost of energy. But, the International Energy Agency says doing nothing about climate change will be even more expensive.

The IEA predicts that energy bills as a portion of gross domestic product could double between now and 2030 for the world's largest countries absent any action to reduce the use of fossil fuels, according to a Tuesday report from Reuters.

Fatih Birol, author of the IEA's World Energy Outlook 2009 released Tuesday, told Reuters that the European Union's energy bills, for example, could grow to $500 billion by 2030, compared to $160 billion over the last 30 years.

That projection is based on the idea that a business-as-usual scenario will see countries continue to use increasingly expensive fossil fuels for most of their power generation needs. The IEA projects, for example, that oil prices will reach $100 per barrel by 2015 and $190 per barrel by 2030, Reuters reported.

While fossil fuel prices have declined amidst the global economic downturn, the Paris-based IEA projects they will rise again. Take natural gas, which recently has dropped in price due to a reduction in demand, as well as discovery of new supplies. But in the long term, the IEA predicts the global supply of natural gas will fall to 150 trillion cubic meters per year by 2030, about half of today's levels, Reuters reported.

The IEA projections come in advance of the December meeting set for Copenhagen, when the world's nations intend to hash out a greenhouse-gas emissions reduction agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

The IEA projects that cutting emissions to bring atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide below 450 parts per million – considered a baseline to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius – will cost about $10.5 trillion between 2010 and 2030.

But every year past 2010 that the world puts off reducing greenhouse gas emissions could add $500 billion to that price tag, the IEA said Tuesday (see Reuters).

In the United States, such projections could play a role in the ongoing debate in Congress over proposed carbon cap-and-trade legislation. Opponents of the proposals to cut the nation's carbon emissions by up to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 have said it will add too much to energy costs, while others have said investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency could lower those costs (see Energy-Climate Bill Could Boost Electricity Costs 20% by 2030).

The Obama Administration has said it wants a cap-and-trade law to bring to the December meeting in Copenhagen, but it is unclear whether Congress will deliver a bill in time (see Green Light post and White House Planning Climate Strategy for Third Week of September).

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