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The Myth Of An Imminent Energy Transition

The Myth Of An Imminent Energy Transition

Cushing oil storage

100 million. It’s a number that drowns comprehension; it’s more jelly beans than can fit in an average-sized swimming pool.

Within a year, world oil consumption will top 100 million barrels of oil per day. Over the same time period, close to 100 million new piston-firing vehicles will be bought by petroleum-thirsty customers.

I hate to say it, but any notion of imminent “energy transition” or “decarbonization” is folly.

In fact, the percentage of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix—coal, oil and natural gas—is still lingering well above 80 percent, a figure that has changed little in 30 years. That remains so, despite being challenged by serious environmental policies, financial pressures, viable alternative systems, public awareness and social activism.

It’s true that wind and solar are being deployed quickly, at an exponential rate in fact. But impressive as it all is, renewable energy installations are far too slow to catch the still-hardy appetite for fossil fuel consumption. Such energy obesity is not virtuous, but it’s a fact needing acknowledgement in a world of over seven billion people, each of whom are wanting for more light, heat, mobility and a panoply of mostly useless gadgetry.

Oil and gas are growing especially fast. Recently published data reminds us that we’re consuming hydrocarbons faster than ever, at robust rates on a global absolute basis (see Figure 1). Market share for oil and gas is holding steady at just under 60 percent. Related: Is Russia About To Abandon The OPEC Deal?

(Click to enlarge)

The resilience of fossil fuels is sobering, even after massive capital assault.

Over the past decade, the world has spent US$ 3.0 trillion on renewable energy, according to the International Energy Agency (Figure 2). For that expenditure, the clean cadre has taken a couple of points of share away from coal, the black stuff that seems to have nine lives (Figure 3).

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