Not even the stoutest electric car advocates can deny that oil will play a major role in the transportation sector for decades. But just how dominant will oil remain? In the latest OPEC World Oil Outlook report, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries things that electric cars will have almost no impact on oil usage. I say let’s prove them wrong.
In its forecast, OPEC predicts that oil usage will continue to increase (despite recent trends to the contrary), with 91% of the world’s vehicles still relying on gasoline or diesel to provide propulsion.It sees a small place for hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, as well as natural gas and propane vehicles, but oil-based fuels remain the predominant force in the transportation sector.
If one were to look at current plug-in car sales, and assume that nothing will change over the next 30 or so years to make oil a less-attractive option than a plug-in car, then OPEC’s forecast makes sense. Of course you’d also have to ignore that the world’s largest car-buying economy, China, is making a massive push to get drivers into plug-in cars, with the goal of having 5 million plug-in vehicles on its roads by 2020. That’s just five years away folks, and unlike Obama’s half-assed push for electric vehicles, China is throwing hundreds of billions of dollars in charging infrastructure expansion and vehicle incentives to get EVs on its roads.
The OPEC report also has to ignore the fact that the electric vehicle market in Europe is the fastest growing segment, and here in the U.S. plug-in car sales are actually accelerating faster than hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. Meanwhile the Tesla Model S has become an important status symbol all across the world with a waiting list months long, and more than 20,000 people have put a sizable deposit down on the upcoming Model X. Perhaps that’s why OPEC downwardly revised its 2014 predictions from 2013, when it predicted that 97% of all vehicles would still be petrol powered.
The OPEC report also predicts that gas and coal will remain the major sources of utility power until at least 2040, with renewable energy eeking out a paltry 4% share of the world energy market. OPEC ignores the fact that major powers like Germany now regularly draw huge portions of their power needs from green sources, and demand for oil products is plummeting, despite lower prices.
Nobody I know can (accurately) predict the future, but even some of the largest oil companies in the world think that oil is on its way out, and most likely within our lifetimes. OPEC probably doesn’t want to admit it, but even they’ve got to see the writing on the wall…and that points the way to plug-in cars and hydrogen fuel cells, among other non-oil solutions.
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