Sorry, Alternative Energy Won't Save Us From Our Oil Addiction

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Oil contributes 40% of the world’s energy. Over the next 20 years, demand for oil will likely continue to grow strongly no matter how aggressively we invest in alternatives. 

By 2030, energy use will have grown more than 50%, and oil will still account for 30% of it, writes Daniel Yergin for the Wall Street Journal today.

(Yergin is the Pulitzer prize winning author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.)

WSJ: There are two obvious ways to temper demand growth—either roll back economic growth, or find new technologies. The former is not acceptable. Thus, the answer has to lie in technology. The challenge is to find alternatives to oil that can be economically competitive—and convenient and reliable—at the massive scale required…

[W]hatever the breakthroughs, the actual impact on fuel use for the next 20 years will be incremental due to the time it takes to get large-scale mass production up and running and the massive scale of the global auto industry. My firm, IHS CERA, projects that with aggressive sales volumes and no major bumps in the road (unusual for new technologies), plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles could constitute 25% of new car sales by 2030. But because of the slow turn-over of the overall fleet, gasoline consumption would be reduced only modestly below what it would otherwise be. Thereafter, of course, the impact could grow, perhaps very substantially.

But, in the U.S., at least for the next two decades, greater efficiency in the internal combustion engine, advanced diesels, and regular hybrids, combined with second-generation biofuels and new lighter materials, would have a bigger impact sooner. There is, however, a global twist. If small, low-cost electric vehicles really catch on in the auto growth markets in Asia, that would certainly lower the global growth curve for future oil demand.

Read the whole thing at WSJ →

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