Even pro-fossil media are waking up to the threat to the petroleum industry posed by the explosive growth in electric passenger cars—a threat that three recent surveys underscore.
Alberta synthetic crude producers are well aware of the risks they face as a result of coherent climate policies, Markham Hislop blogs in the pro-fossil North American Energy News. But recently, “a new and potentially more serious risk has appeared on Alberta oil producers’ radar: the spread of electric vehicles and the possibility of falling oil demand within a few decades.”
Knowledgeable observers like Stanford University lecturer Tony Seba, Hislop notes, believe that with the rise of “autonomous EVs combined with the ‘transportation as a service’ business model—think taxi or ride-sharing companies,” many consumers will abandon private cars. Seba predicts—though Hislop disagrees—that the drop in private car ownership “will reduce global oil demand from 100 million barrels per day to 44 million by 2030, effectively putting out of business the high-cost producers like Alberta oil sands giants Cenovus and Suncor.”
Several recent reports support Seba’s contention. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, after surveying the automotive marketplace, finds that within 2½ years some 120 “pure” electric vehicle models (not counting hybrids) will be looking for buyers. “The number of EV models available on the market is rising quickly,” the news agency reports. “The first generation of battery electric vehicles were mostly smaller cars, but numerous EV models will soon be available across all segments.”
And just last month, the Swiss investment bank UBS predicted that electric cars will reach price parity with internal combustion models, based on an owner’s lifetime costs, as early as next year.
Separately, meanwhile, North American Energy News reports a Reuters/Ipsos poll which found that, among the roughly one-quarter of Americans who switched to a new vehicle last year, 9% “ditched their wheels and are now using Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies. About the same number are expecting to get rid of their cars and turn to ride-sharing services in the upcoming 12 months.”
And CleanTechnica reports on an international poll which found that “28–40% of [pure and hybrid electric vehicle-owners surveyed] said they had home solar panels, which means they are essentially ‘fueling’ their electric cars with sunshine.”
“That sounds like a very serious material risk for Calgary-based oil companies,” pro-fossil blogger Hislop admits, even as he insists that Stanford’s Seba “is probably mostly wrong.” Many Calgary-based oil executives agree with him, Hislop says; they “scoff at the thought of a world without oil—or even one that uses a lot less petroleum.”
While not exactly scoffing, Alberta-based JWN Energy News recently ran an infographic examining how the emerging electric vehicle marketplace could play out. While it foresaw an increase in EV sales, it still anticipates that only 100 million of the world’s 1.8 billion vehicles will be electric by 2035. Fuel efficiency standards on gas vehicles, the outlet asserts, “will have more impact than electric cars on oil demand.”
Maybe so. But Energy News blogger Hislop leaves readers with this: “My experts say Seba’s math is sound, which makes his doomsday scenario plausible if not probable.”