Oil efficiency: Now what?

This is old, but too important to let pass without mention. Morgan Downey summarizes a new paper with a disturbing punchline (summary is Downey's, emphasis is mine):
Dargay/Gately find that much of the efficiency in oil consumption in OECD countries since 1970 was due to oil being effectively phased out as an electricity generation fuel. The oil saved from electricity generation was used in transport. Transport demand for oil facilitates economic growth and is thus highly correlated with economic growth.

Now that this shift away from oil being used for electricity generation has been completed, growth in Total oil demand is going to be much more highly correlated to economic growth than it has been since 1970. Because of this, one cannot use growth in Total oil demand since 1970 as a predictor of future oil demand growth. Instead, growth in Total oil demand is likely to be higher than the 1970-today period.

Oil demand in 2009 is just over 84 million barrels per day (mbd). A major reason for the difference between the Dargay/Gately demand number by 2030 of 134 mbd and the IEA forecast of 105 mbd is due to Dargay/Gately incorporating the fact that the one off switching effect from electicity use to transport use cannot be repeated. Dargay/Gately are not stating that supply of 134 mbd or 105 mbd will be available. They are simply looking at the demand side of the equation and saying that if economic and population growth progresses as the OECD forecasts then the oil demand this implies is likely to be a lot higher than the IEA's forecast of 105 mbd.

The conclusion I take from Dargay/Gately's paper is that if supply is not available to meet this 134 mbd oil demand then economic growth cannot progress as the OECD forecasts and/or an extremely large and unprecedented change in the level of oil consumption efficiency will have to take place between now and 2030. This efficiency will likely be driven by high oil prices.
Given how hard it was for the world to reach 90 mbd even under record prices in 2008, a 50% increase in supply (to 134mbd) by 2030 seems far-fetched... so we will have to see how far innovation (in efficiency and alternate transportation energy sources) can take us.

No comments:

Post a Comment