The European Climate Foundation has launched a new report, Oil Market Futures, which highlights the need for policymakers and investors to start planning for a world with significantly lower oil demand, and consequently lower crude oil prices. Just as the “Peak Oil” theory proved to be a mirage, Oil Market Futures throws into question previous assumptions of ever-increasing oil prices.
The study, available for download here, looks at oil prices under a scenario of concerted global action to tackle carbon emissions from transport. The results show that, in a world where climate policies are implemented to drive investment in low-carbon technologies, demand for oil from transport will be significantly reduced: by around 11 million barrels per day in 2030 and by 60 million barrels per day in 2050. This lower oil demand would result in oil prices stabilising between $83 and $87 per barrel in the long run, rather than increasing to $90 per barrel by 2030 and over $130 per barrel by 2050 in a business-as-usual high-carbon world.
The report was launched at the London Stock Exchange on April 20th, an event where Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister Barry Gardiner MP warned that oil companies were taking unacceptable risks by planning for business-as-usual. In his keynote speech, Gardiner told the audience: “It is foolish – and reckless – to plan for business as usual. Yet that is what oil companies are doing. I now believe that it may indicate a pattern of deliberate misinformation to the public that will one day lead to a successful criminal prosecution against such companies similar to those we have seen in the tobacco industry.”
Around 80 representatives from the oil industry, the investor community, government and civil society gathered in the symbolic venue. Gardiner’s speech was followed by a debate on the “new normal of oil prices” between Professor Dieter Helm, E3G chairman Tom Burke and The Carbon Tracker Initiative’s CEO Anthony Hobley. At a second event in Brussels on April 26th, around 150 participants heard a panel debate on the implications for geopolitics and EU policy choices.
The study was conducted by a consortium of three consultants, Pöyry, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), and Cambridge Econometrics. Lead author Philip Summerton of Cambridge Econometrics explained: “In a world where climate policies are being implemented to drive investment in low-carbon technologies – as governments agreed in Paris – demand for oil will be curbed and, ultimately, reduced. This will have profound impacts for oil markets, but the economic advantages to oil consuming countries are clear and by moving early, the benefit can be maximised.”
ICCT Executive Director Drew Kodjak said: “We have seen how vehicle standards around the globe have already reduced oil demand, and with governments increasingly waking up to the imperative to tackle climate change, we can expect this trend to strengthen. Companies such as Tesla have shown what innovative engineers are capable of, and governments in California, Norway and the Netherlands have shown how rapidly change can be delivered via smart policies.”
The report received media coverage globally, as illustrated by this selected article from the Guardian.