A recent study by Barclays, highlighted in the Axios Generate newsletter on May 8, 2019, shows the difficulty of cutting oil demand, let alone getting to “zero net carbon” emissions by 2050. Under Barclays “most likely” scenario, world oil demand peaks in the 2030 to 2035 period, with demand in 2050 about 5% above where it is today, about 105 million barrels/day.
The third scenario shows world oil demand falling by 30% in 2050 from today’s levels. The “most likely” scenario is still a “doomsday” scenario, with CO2 levels in the atmosphere continuing to rise and global temperatures continuing to increase.
What could we do to change the “most likely” scenario?
Spend gobs of money on new technology (e.g., for carbon capture and storage) and energy-efficiency investments. I once heard the chairman of United Technologies say that the average conversion efficiency of oil to useful work (he was an engineer, so he thought like that!) worldwide is about 9%. If we could just raise that to 12%, we’d cut energy use by 25% right there. Electric power plant to end-use efficiency, with fossil fuel combustion, today is only 25% (and then conversion to useful work begins) and we’ve been trying to improve that for 100 years. Efficiency is the better investment by far.
Electrify everything that doesn’t move (like buildings) and supply that electricity with renewables. Faster growth of renewables will require extending tax credits now scheduled to go away in a few years, plus mandating that all levels of government purchase only renewable electricity.
Encourage a massive and rapid movement toward electric vehicles. I recently read that half of all motor vehicles are owned by companies and government. It’s much easier to give companies tax incentives to change over their fleets than to try to convince consumers to do it. As for government (at all levels) and nonprofits (like hospitals), the simplest solution is just for the taxpayers to GIVE THEM the vehicles (as long as all vehicles are made in the US.)
Here’s an easy one, with multiple benefits. Cut oil demand 6% just by banning single-use plastics; that would keep them out of the ocean and also out of the recycling stream!