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Welcome to Evolutionshift! I am futurist David Houle and this is my future look at today. This newsletter is creating a growing audience of thoughtful people who are concerned about our collective future. If you are a subscriber, thank you! If someone sent this email to you, please subscribe by clicking on this button. If you would like to support the work that I put into this newsletter, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. Thank you in advance!
Peak Oil, in the context of this newsletter, is the year in the future that will have the greatest amount of oil extracted in history. In subsequent years that amount will start its downward trend.
In the last column on this topic, I suggested that the Peak Oil year might be 2032. This could be off by a year or two, but I think that it will happen by 2035 at the latest and 2030 at the earliest.
As regular readers of Evolutionshift know, I have long been concerned about the climate crisis, have co-authored three books on it, and started a global non-profit to face it. This translates into a strong sense that the sooner this Peak Oil year can happen, the better off all living things will be. I want it to be as soon as possible. This leads me to that conundrum I occasionally have as a futurist: to let my sentiments and hopes not get in the way of clear forecasting. So, for myself, as much as for you, dear reader, I am looking at a lot of data and trends that will affect when Peak Oil year happens.
-the vast majority of humanity understands that getting off fossil fuels is a major, urgent first step in righting humanity’s relationship with Spaceship Earth. The need is widely known and accepted. Politicians have and are taking notice.
-the rapid increase in clean energy in the 21st century
-The amount of investment in clean energy is rapidly accelerating and since 2016 has been greater than fossil fuel investment
-All the major car companies and many of the largest countries have mandated the production and sales of EVs exclusively by the mid-2030s
-the constantly increasing energy efficiencies of existing buildings and new construction
-the coming transformation of battery storage, increasing the ability for variable energy to be stored
Now let’s take a look at the data
1 exajoule = 174 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Global energy investment in clean energy and in fossil fuels 2015-2023
Growth of EVs since 2010
A lot of current data on global EV sales can be found here
There is research out there that suggests we have plateaued the amount of fossil fuels converted into electricity and that starting in 2025 – the year for Peak Oil in terms of electricity – will start that decline that will be unmistakable by 2030.
The electrical energy that comes from fossil fuels is about to plateau and then decline in the second half of the 2020s decade. This will lead to the leveling off of other sectors such as transportation, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing, during this decade as well. Electricity and heat are approximately 1/3 of all energy use, so the other 2/3 with varying levels of fossil fuel use will also decline.
There are obvious roadblocks ahead as humanity moves to Peak Oil. Many are based upon Legacy Thinking, perhaps the single largest impediment to moving to a fundamentally different future directly ahead this decade. Thoughts from the past created the infrastructures of yesterday and today. One of my very first columns in Evolutionshift, published more than a year ago, was about this concept.
Just think about the automotive industry today. The customer base has lived more than 100 years in a world where all vehicles were ICE [Internal Combustion Engine], and the landscape had endless gas stations. This IS the reality, and based upon numerous generations growing up with it, the perception that it will change, or needs to change, is difficult to consider.
Even the dictionary has provided legacy thinking. This is from dictionary.com:
“a passenger vehicle designed for operation on ordinary roads and typically having four-wheels and a gasoline or diesel internal-combustion engine”
Fifteen years from now it is very likely that there will not be any ICE vehicles being produced. So the dictionary definition of the automobile will change in the next 15 years after some 125 years of being the same. Hard for most people to imagine.
Think about the major auto companies who in the aggregate will be investing about $1 trillion dollars this decade to convert – and therefore redefine- the automobile from ICE to EV. The commitment to invest this much has to be made before there is deep clarity as to how fast this conversion will occur.
Think about air travel, one of the worst things a person can do relative to generate GHG emissions. In 10 years, many of you reading these words will take a flight that is on a battery-operated plane. It is hard to imagine a flight without jet fuel. I often joke from the stage that, while this emission-free and petroleum-free form of travel is good and is going to happen, I don’t want to be on the first long-range battery-operated flight. Neither do you.
In the future humanity will be much less reliant on fossil fuels, coal and oil in particular, than we are today. We are rapidly moving in this direction, and the movement to that future is accelerating.
Peak Oil will occur between 2030-2035.