A moment of truth is coming for the oil and gas industry This is the opening line of the International Energy Agency’s latest report on the global oil and gas industry in the energy transition. Around 97 mb/d of oil and 4 150 bcm of natural gas were consumed globally in 2022. This resulted in just over 18 Gt CO2 emissions, around half of total energy-related CO2 emissions.
There is no pathway to reduction in petroleum combustion. Indeed any prosperity that accrues to any society results in bigger cars and more energy consumption. Going green without fossil fuels would require massive investment in nuclear energy , which is not happening. Going green means vast new infrastructure, such as rail , again, not happening. Just a simple improvement in mileage standards in the USA would reduce gasoline consumption, but that easy policy is NOT happening. Planting trillions of trees would help blunt the problem, NOT HAPPENING. The fault is not oil companies, it is the lack of policy from governments big and small to blame.
The IEA’s message is utter nonsense.
Adam, thanks for this article. Much appreciated. I see the propaganda approach working in other industries too. The big corporations sign up for the altruistic goals, but it's nothing much more than a marketing campaign.
We recently did a study of the Aluminum industry's commitment to net zero by 2050. Our study included 98% of all primary aluminum produced in the world today, and found that only about a third of all operating capacity has a stated commitment to net zero. But many companies have launched new "low carbon" products, seeking to cash in on the wave. Naturally, most of them do not define what they mean by "low carbon" - is it Scope 2 as well as Scope 1? Is it 4t CO2/t AL, or 2t, or what exactly is the level of CO2 emitted in your process? Lots of talk, lots of market positioning, little progress.
First of all, better definitions of the various scenarios would be helpful: These forecasts try to capture a range of possible outcomes by using the different scenarios, such as STEPS, APS, and NZE. Here is more detail about those scenarios: (1)The Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS): Assumes prevailing policy settings and projects a four percent increase in natural gas demand until 2030, followed by flat demand until 2050. This scenario is associated with a projected rise of around 2.5 °C in global average temperatures by 2100. (2) The Announced Pledges Scenario (APS): Incorporates climate commitments made by governments, including Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and net zero targets, resulting in an eight percent lower natural gas demand in 2030 compared to 2021, with a gradual two percent per year decline from 2030 to 2050. APS is associated with a projected temperature rise of 1.7 °C by 2100. (3) The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE): Aims to limit global warming to 1.5 °C and assumes aggressive gains in energy efficiency and consumer behavior changes. Compared to 2021 levels, it projects a 22 percent decline in natural gas supply and demand below 2021 by 2030, with a little over five percent annual demand decline from 2030 to 2050. NZE anticipates significant reductions in fossil fuel demand and relies on renewables, while potentially underestimating the role of Carbon Capture Technology and wider adoption of low-cost, reliable base load natural gas.
The IEA forecasts are sophisticated and regarded seriously in the oil and gas industry (just read energy companies' annual reports and shareholder communications if you don't believe me), but necessarily rely on assumptions and unknowns, which are many and important. (An example of how economic conditions and supply variances can strongly impact actual prices can be seen in natural gas prices in the U.S. over the past two years. In 2022, natural gas prices started and ended the year at $4-5 per Mbtu (as forecasted) but swung wildly and stayed at $9-10 for most of the year. The IEA forecast is for natural gas in real dollars to be (as in 2022) at $4 by 2030 and remain there through 2050 under current policy. In fact, so far this year, they have ranged between $2 and $3, (which is what they are forecasted to be in 2030-2050 under the rigorous NZE scenario). Perhaps the markets are actually forecasting that alternative energy sources will, in fact, change the energy use future, so producers are willing to sell their gas at prices lower than IEA forecasts. Certainly, the claims above that fossil fuel usage will not be impacted by competing energy sources and government policy are unpersuasive.
What an idiotic post, Adam Tooze... all you are doing is parrot the official narrative - did you use AI to write this?
Suggest you spend a few weeks listening to the likes of Doomberg, Alex Epstein & Simon Michaux, before posting more of this drivel.
Isn't this typical of most transitions in technologies? Incumbent firms don't disrupt themselves, they compete with the new technology. Makers of horse-drawn carriages did not become car companies. Most manufacturers of mainframe computers are gone. Etc.
Yes, oil and gas companies may well be wasting capital. But are they getting clear signals from governments? Didn't the UK push back the deadline for EVs? What if Donald Trump is elected next year? When will the US tax carbon?
Ironically, policies to squeeze supply will put upward pressures on prices, encouraging more investment. Policies to curb demand for fossil fuels work two ways, both directly and through price signals. Where are they?
Also, your lack of understanding of impact of imposing the “green revolution” on those less fortunate is frankly astounding and racist.
Thanks for this. Massive growth in renewables -which is already happening - is going to be disastrous for the oil industry, as renewables become the lowest-cost energy source (already the case for new electricity generation).
But keep investing in oil if you want, lots of people held stock in the Stanley Steam Car company right up to the end.
I am old. In last twenty years typical vehicle size in USA has got bigger and bigger. I drive a midsized suv. Why? For safety reasons because less chance of dying in an accident due to size. But now many pickup trucks and suvs much bigger than my vehicle. It’s like and arms race pump me up. Also there seems to be no understanding of thermodynamics and physics. Batteries are heavy. If you want electric as others have mentioned new big grid improvements and also nuclear power as solar and wind are not reliable. If wind and solar are cheaper it’s due to subsidies and cherry picking of data and location. China and India and Vietnam adding lots of new coal plants. To change things need to end charging of interest and fractional reserve banking which requires infinite growth and move to a sustainable economy model based on quality of life instead of growth and central banking debt slavery
Tell him he's dreaming son!
If we really “swept aside the fossil fuel industry” on anything like the timetable the Greens demand billions would die. Of course nothing like that will ever happen, just look, for example, at China’s soaring coal usage. What will happen however is the collapse of Western civilization.
This is straight up soft-handed mental masturbation, written by somebody who has never had a real job or done an honest day's work. All of us working poors are not just going to lay down and let you far green marxist boomers fuck it up for us. It doesn't matter how much time you wasted ascending the ranks of your academy, or how much the corrupt politicians try to dictate who lives and who dies. This whole nonsense about net zero is based on the foolish assumption that you can predict the future, with your fancy computers, and your smug attitude toward the facts, but we see through your bullshit.
A billion people, who have no access to electricity, burn wood and dung to cook. Another two billion people live on less energy than an average refrigerator.
Far green racists and their indoctrinated supporters want to stop these people using fossil fuel to advance their lives... I say FU!
Why spend so much time putting together charts and analysis on a fantasy?
This is a nonsensical piece as numerous folks have said below. As long as wind and solar are the primary sources of energy being used as part of the transition oil and gas use around the world is not going anywhere. For those who live in a fantasy land like the IEA, and apparently Adam (as well as many lefty economists, historians, etc), who thinks we are well on our way to a major energy transition, I offer you this analysis below which is actual reality on the ground. Places like Germany and CA have shown that rapid energy transition is a road to disaster and as long as solar and wind are the primary benefactors of this green delusion, oil and gas consumption is not going anywhere. These rapid transition projections are based on there not being any pushback for higher energy costs. If you actually believe there won't be major pushback as higher energy costs continue to hit peoples' pocketbooks, you need a reality check.
The foundation of everything: Why Dumb Ideas Capture Smart and Successful People
Intelligent individuals are better at understanding the reputational consequences of their beliefs
The IEA is a indeed a gov spout and has officially joined the wholly righteous and alarming set of western middle classes in search of a new religion which separates them from the fossil hoi polloi:
Climate Activism Isn't About the Planet. It's About the Boredom of the Bourgeoisie
(Not that driving a gov subsidized Tesla is that boring).
IEA predictions are typically reversed - by the IEA - about 6 months later. It should be renamed the International Roller Coaster Agency.
Just like western middle classes the IEA makes a lot of noise and then continuous business as usual (bau).
BAU is also the unofficial (nick)name of the most used yet utterly unrealistic because technically impossible climate scenario RCP/SSP8.5. This scenario has been and is all over the media since without it studies' headers and media articles become a lot less 'interesting'. (We need to add 23.000 coal fired utility plants to the current 7000 to reach its predicted emissions).
The IPCC expects the RCP/SSP4.5 scenario to be the realistic expectation for 2100 with a temperature rise of less than half that of RCP/SSP8.5 - 2.2C / 2.5C. We're already at 1.5C of that warming, not 'global' warming btw since global warming in reality is northern hemisphere warming. Europe (+ 2C) and the arctic (+ 3C / 4C) especially.
But you know...numbers...statistics...
Media: 'Europeans most at risk from climate deaths! Hungary leads!'
Of course Europe and Hungary are most at risk. Aging increases the number of deaths from heat, and Hungary is the fastest aging country in Europe. Yet 90% of global deaths-from-the-weather (climate-deaths do not exist) still come from the cold. Which to a degree is related to wealth and wealth distribution: a 1% rise in US energy costs leads to a 12% rise in annual US deaths from cold.
Anyway, while psychologists have found new business in setting up faculties where 'denier-brains' are researched (no one denies climate change, it's more a matter of belief systems), and marketers have found new business in researching how 'to reach denier brains with the right message', this is our reality:
Environmental knowledge is inversely associated with climate change anxiety
But if we examine 'climate-brains' their activism becomes logical:
Climate change anxiety and mental health: Environmental activism as buffer
let's hope it's good therapy, young women are having abortions because of climate doom:
Zoé had her child aborted because of the climate
And let's hope activists will finally begin to read climate science:
Don't overstate 1.5 degrees C threat, new IPCC head says
The most recent report, IPCC AR6 , chapter 12: Climate Change Information for Regional Impact and for Risk Assessment. Page 90 shows the (un)detected weather extremes:
Then again, degrowth is in fashion and has also captured the non-scientific IPCC working group 2 focused on adaption etc. Their 'science' is far from settled (obviously) but their language is funky:
The Political Agenda of the IPCC
'transformation is the resulting ‘fundamental reorganisation of large-scale socio-economic systems’ (Hölscher et al. 2018). Such a fundamental reorganisation often requires dynamic multi-stage transition processes that change everything from public policies and prevailing technologies to individual lifestyles, and social norms to governance arrangements and institutions of political economy...
The starting point for this virtuous circle are inner transitions. Inner transitions occur within individuals, organisations and even larger jurisdictions that alter beliefs and actions involving climate change (Woiwode et al. 2021). An inner transition within an individual (see e.g., Parodi and Tamm 2018) typically involves a person gaining a deepening sense of peace and a willingness to help others, as well as protecting the climate and the planet . . .
Examples have also been seen in relation to a similar set of inner transitions to individuals, organisations and societies, which involve embracing post-development, degrowth, or non-material values that challenge carbon-intensive lifestyles and development models . . .
Consumption reductions, both voluntary and policy-induced, can have positive and double-dividend effects on efficiency as well as reductions in energy and materials use . . . a low-carbon transition in conjunction with social sustainability is possible, even without economic growth (Kallis et al. 2012; Jackson and Victor 2016; Stuart et al. 2017; Chapman and Fraser 2019; D’Alessandro et al. 2019; Gabriel and Bond 2019; Huang et al. 2019; Victor 2019). Such degrowth pathways may be crucial in combining technical feasibility of mitigation with social development goals (Hickel et al. 2021; Keyßer and Lenzen 2021)'
Amen. And now let's get really fired up:
Kohei Saito: ‘Marx in the Anthropocene: Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism’
Yes! It's in The Holy Bible, you see?! (Well, not in The Holy Bible perse, but in HIS notes musings about the environment and sustainability have been identified by eager monks).
The wholly righteous left has clearly piled all its hopes and wants on 'climate' but as so often it's somewhat clueless when it comes to economics and statistics. Two current examples of righteous zeal ending as comedy:
1) ESG motivated pension funds and asset managers to remove fossil energy companies from their portfolios, while banks became more conservative lenders since fossil was 'destroying The Planet'. Yet the renewables industry has been fully underpinned by the effects of QE and low interest rates. Now that both have changed and the real costs of renewables become visible, inflation on top of that, we are also beginning to see the effects of underinvestment in energy exploration (effects predicted long ago): building out the humongous amount of windmills and solar panels will be extravagantly expensive. And inflationary. (The mining industry shows the same underinvestment although there company & shareholder actions also have had an impact on investments).
2) ESG also motivated the financial industry to divest from the European weapons industry. An industry which is now supposed to quickly scale up vs the Russian 'threat'. But they can't find private funds - anymore. So now gov's are contemplating subsidies.
Just like gov subsidies enabled the renewables industry. Which caused industrial and household energy prices to climb much higher. Now those two will have to be subsidized as well.
It seems Capitalism may end up in Socialism after all.
But we won't all drive Teslas. Having the right car is as important as having the right opinion (Teslas are clearly the new Saabs).
Let's finish on a fun note with a classic example of economists's utility through futility:
'In my never-ending series on ‘Economists who think they can apply their tools to every situation, no matter how ridiculous’, let me introduce you to Robert Michael from the University of Chicago. His paper is called The Nature of Sexual Capital and it literally starts with the following sentence:
“It is surprising that there has been so little economic research on the subject of sexual behaviour.”'