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Colossal Fossil Total Projects Peak Oil by 2030, Still ‘Leaves it to Others’ to Meet Paris Targets

crude oil

A shareholder action group says TotalEnergies is leaving it to others to meet the carbon reduction goals in the Paris agreement, after the Paris-based colossal fossil predicted the world will hit peak oil demand around 2030 but still produce 40 to 64 million barrels per day in 2050.

At Total’s annual Investor Day Monday and Tuesday, CEO Patrick Pouyanné said the company expects virtually no decrease in oil consumption by 2030, Follow This reported yesterday in an email release.

“According to our trajectory, by 2030 we are more around 90 million [barrels per day], and that means that we need to continue to invest in some oil and gas fields,” Pouyanné said. While some analyses have called for a threshold of 70 million barrels by decade’s end, “we don’t know how this decrease could happen,” he added.

A chart accompanying the Follow This release has Total’s more ambitious scenario projecting a 20% emissions reduction by 2030, 20% more than the company’s CEO seems to be assuming.

With his statement to investors, Pouyanné “bluntly says he doesn’t believe that the Paris accord—signed by almost 200 countries in his own city—will be met,” said Follow This founder Mark van Baal.

Total’s 2021 Energy Outlook shows oil’s decline beginning “sooner than it previously forecast, as more nations crack down on fossil fuels to fight global warming,” Bloomberg reports. It also has renewable energy investments increasing “significantly” through mid-century.

Both future scenarios in the outlook report, released Monday, incorporate net-zero pledges that several countries have published in the last year. Total “also cut its forecast for global emissions, reflecting pledges from major companies to become carbon neutral in coming decades,” the news agency writes.

Oilprice.com says Total’s Momentum scenario lays out what could happen if countries continue making net-zero commitments, with China peaking its emissions by the middle of this decade and hitting a decarbonization threshold of roughly 60% over the next 30 years. It shows gas playing a key role in the transition off carbon, with oil demand still standing at 64 million barrels per day in 2050. The somewhat more ambitious Rupture scenario still calls for daily production of 40 million barrels of oil in that year.

In TotalEnergies’ view of the future, “net-zero will require massive adoption of sustainable liquid fuels—with biofuels first and hydrogen-based fuels after that—in all modes of transportation,” Oilprice writes. So “Total is betting on profitably growing its liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable businesses as part of its strategy and net-zero agenda.”

Total published its projections in a moment when fossil fuel prices have been on the rise. But whereas past price increases might have triggered a boom in oil and gas exploration and extraction, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) says this time is different.

“While volatile energy commodity prices have been sharply increasing globally,” writes IEEFA energy analyst Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz, “renewable technologies have been steadily decreasing” in cost, with utility-scale solar down by 85%, concentrating solar power by 68%, onshore wind by 56%, and offshore wind by 48% in the last decade.

While Jaller-Makarewicz’s analysis focuses primarily on natural gas, coal, and electricity prices, oil has been on a tear, as well: the North American oil price, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), stood at US$79.82 per barrel late Monday, and has averaged $64.90 per barrel so far this year, compared to $39.68 last year. European Brent crude tipped above $80 yesterday. But in contrast to past industry shifts, this year’s price spikes just reflect a fossil fuel sector that is becoming more volatile and riskier, IEEFA says.

As a result, “global investors are accelerating their collective move away from the massive climate-related risks associated with fossil fuel assets and building capacity so as to increasingly deploy huge amounts of capital into renewable energy infrastructure projects,” said Tim Buckley, the institute’s director energy finance studies, Australia/South Asia.

“The continued expansion of investment shows the resilience of the renewable energy sector despite the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.”