Listening to the latest news from the get-together at the APEC meeting in Vietnam one of the strong comments from our new Prime Minister was the need for more action regarding Climate Change.
This most likely move will mean more effort towards curbing fossil fuelled transport and supporting the wider introduction of electric and maybe hydrogen fuelled cars. As you know already there are both hybrid and battery driven vehicles available in New Zealand, albeit at rather high prices, but more are coming and maybe at more accessible prices.
The technology obviously does not require the same amount of oil usage to produce petrol or diesel for such vehicles, but still for fuel oils for steam and heating and for lubricants. The long touted situation of having reached the maximum amount of oil production and wells running out is maybe not such a serious threat [if in reality it ever was] and is at least pushed out into the future.
Solar and wind generation of electricity in this country has ideal conditions although competing against hydro and geothermal will depend on solar panel and windmill pricing, but the transition would most certainly assist or maybe prevent more catastrophic outcomes on a world basis.
Meanwhile oil still gushes out of the wells, In the USA alone some 600,000 active oil wells exist and as global demand each and every day last year was 96 million barrels and we are not really doing a lot to reduce the demand. You may wonder what the big oil producers are doing to respect of renewable energy projects as they spend US$100 billion annually of which only 3% goes to renewable projects. I just noted that Reuter’s reported that BP is scaling back its investment in renewable energy.
You may wonder where all the oil goes, the figures in 2015 showed passenger vehicles consumed 26% of total consumption, road freight 18%, petrochemical industries [incl plastics] 12%, building materials 8%, heating and steam 7%, aviation 6%, power generation 6% and lastly shipping and maritime 5%.
In other words close to half of the consumption we burn on the roads, and half of that again on freighters moving our products rather than people.
Quite a few countries have taken to subsidizing electric cars [UK, Norway, France, Netherlands, India and China] and setting dates for banning the gas guzzlers, maybe we might see moves here to ban imports of used [non-electric] cars, and providing unaffordable fuel via still higher taxes. No, I am not giving them ideas, they already have their sights set.
So are we going to run out of oil, no, but we may be weaned off current usage figures and predictions about when we reach that point are varied from the big oil companies: ‘Shell’ say 2022, France’s ‘Total’ 2030, Norway’s ‘Statoil’ 2030, Britain’s ‘BP’ 2040 and ‘ExxonMobil’ and ‘Chevron’ plus the largest oil company in the world ‘Saudi Aramco’ all say ‘Not in sight’.
I imagine that such dates are important to investors, particularly the big ones like Pension funds overseas, Kiwi Saver schemes and of course also anyone with investment in these companies.
One wonders if it is possible for carbon-capture technology to become a reality in time, it would help the people of the cities where smog has become such a problem not just from vehicle emissions, but from the coal fired power stations in their proximity.
Imagine if we could find a way of collecting the methane gas emission from the agricultural sector, we would have ready made fuel for electricity generation. Maybe just a matter of the right technology?
Technology has provided us with much to be pleased about and maybe it is time to produce some really earth shattering tech to save us from our addiction to fossil fuels.