“Today, our society requires oil and gas … There is no way to think that overnight we can just eliminate all that and rely only on 10% of low-carbon energy. It will take decades to build a new system. If we don’t invest enough, the [oil] price will not be $75 per barrel, it will be $150 or $200 and all consumers will be super unhappy and our life will be a nightmare.” That quote was made by TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne during a recent interview with CNBC.
Mr. Pouyanne is certainly not alone in his assessment, though he is closer to the situation than most of the rest of us. The fact is the world is not engaged in any sort of a real “energy transition” at all, but rather a massive diversification and expansion of all types of energy resources. That includes wind and solar, renewable energy sources that are in the midst of a huge expansion drive by trillions of dollars in global government subsidies, but nuclear and coal and wood and biofuels and yes, oil and natural gas.
A new analysis released this week by Energy Outlook Advisors (EOA), a Texas-based advisory group headed up by Anas Alhajji, demonstrates clearly why the popular energy transition narrative about achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 is literally a fantasy.
Start with China and its’ “net-zero by 2060” pledge as a prime example. “The largest investor in renewable energy in the world is China,” Alhajji notes. “To achieve carbon neutrality at this pace of investment, China needs 211 years. But here’s the catch: this number assumes all current renewable projects are going to remain in place forever, and that they won’t require new investments when they expire after 25-30 years. What this indicates is that achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, or even later, is a pipe dream.”
Europe, whose countries have spent trillions of Euros on decarbonization efforts in this century, is another great example. The EOA report points out that, despite those gargantuan investments, fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — provided 71% of Europe’s primary energy consumption during 2022. In China, the figure for 2022 was 82%. In India — the world’s second most populous nation — it was 89%.
In the electricity generation sector, the dominance of fossil fuels is only slightly lower. Europe did manage to generate 41% of its electricity from renewables during 2022, but fossil fuel generation was at 38% with nuclear generating 19% of the continent’s power needs. In China and India, coal is still king, generating 61% and 74% of the power supply in those two Asian giants.
Globally, fossil fuels generated 61% of electricity in 2022, the same percentage as in the United States. With power demand projected to rise dramatically along with the recharging needs of an expanding fleet of electric vehicles in the coming years, this percentage breakdown seems unlikely to shift appreciably for decades to come.
These and other points of hard data cited in the report lead Alhajji to this conclusion: “Most countries, if not all, will not achieve their targets of carbon neutrality, or net zero, by 2050 or 2060. The data above shows that fossil fuels are entrenched and hard to reduce, let alone get rid of them. The hard reality is that we have spent more than $4 trillion on solar and wind energy since 2010, and yet they are showing little progress on the energy landscape.”
Where oil and natural gas are concerned, the report adds, “Data indicates that future demand for oil and gas is UNDERESTIMATED, while demand destruction is HYPED.” That conclusion is supported by repeated upwards revisions of global demand estimates this year by both OPEC and the International Energy Agency.
These are all themes I’ve written about since early 2022, and we have seen a growing consensus forming around them throughout the course of 2023. This EOA report will no doubt help firm up that consensus by documenting the wealth of hard data supporting it.
It’s an important report that everyone should take the time to read and absorb.
David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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