The Energy Agency foresees peaks in global demand for oil, coal and gas by 2030 | ET REALITY

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For more than a century, the world’s appetite for fossil fuels has expanded relentlessly, as humans have continued to burn greater amounts of coal, oil and natural gas almost every year to power homes, cars and factories.

But a notable change may soon be coming. The world’s top energy agency now predicts that global demand for oil, natural gas and coal will peak in 2030, driven in part by policies countries have already adopted to promote cleaner forms of energy and transportation.

A spike in fossil fuel use will not be enough to stop global warming, the International Energy Agency said in its report. World energy outlook, a 354-page report on global energy trends released Tuesday. To achieve this, emissions from coal, oil and natural gas would have to fall to almost zero. But a radical transformation of the global energy landscape is underway.

By 2030, there could be 10 times more electric vehicles on the roads than today, according to the report. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro could supply 50 percent of the world’s electricity, up from 30 percent today. Heat pumps and other electric heating systems could outsell gas and oil boilers. Global investment in offshore wind farms could surpass that in coal and gas power plants.

If all that were to happen, oil and gas demand would most likely stabilize slightly above current levels over the next three decades, expanding in developing countries and contracting in advanced economies. Demand for coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, would begin to decline, although it could fluctuate from year to year if, for example, coal plants needed to run more frequently during heat waves or droughts.

“The transition to clean energy is happening around the world and it is unstoppable,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “It’s not a question of ‘if,’ it’s just a question of ‘how soon,’ and the sooner the better for all of us.”

The agency’s prediction of a peak in fossil fuel demand by 2030 has created controversy. After Birol first suggested the possibility in September, the OPEC oil cartel warned that such forecasts were very uncertain and could lead countries and companies to underinvest in oil and gas drilling. If demand for fossil fuels did not fall as expected, the cartel said, the lack of supply could lead to “energy chaos.”

OPEC gave his own perspective Last year it projected that global demand for oil and natural gas would continue to rise through 2045.

“I have a kind suggestion for oil executives, they only talk to each other,” Birol said in an interview. “They should talk to the automakers, to the heat pump industry, to the renewable energy industry and to investors, and see what they all think the future of energy will be like.”

In the United States, big oil companies have been buying smaller rivals in recent weeks, a sign of confidence that fossil fuels are likely to play a major role in the coming years. On Monday, Chevron announced plans to buy Hess for $53 billion, two weeks after Exxon Mobil said it would buy Pioneer Natural Resources for $59.5 billion. In both deals, the oil giants acquired large reserves of shale in places like Texas and North Dakota, where production could rise and fall relatively quickly, a potential advantage in a world where demand prospects are uncertain, analysts said. .

Predictions about global energy trends are notoriously difficult, and the International Energy Agency has been wrong before. In 2016, the agency He suggested that China’s coal demand had peaked, but its use subsequently skyrocketed to new levels. On the other hand, the agency has previously underestimated the rapid growth of cleaner technologies such as solar energy.

This year’s report says China will play a huge role in determining the world’s energy future. The country accounts for half of global coal use and has driven two-thirds of global oil demand growth over the past decade. But China’s appetite for steel and cement could be stabilizing, the report said, reducing demand for fossil fuels.

The agency’s forecasts could change if countries altered their energy policies. For example, electric cars are currently expected to account for 50 percent of new sales in the United States by 2030, thanks to tax breaks from the Inflation Reduction Act. But several Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald J. Trump, want to end those incentives.

High oil and natural gas prices of late, driven by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and renewed conflict in the Middle East, could also lead countries to use less fossil fuels. During past oil crises, like the one in the 1970s, people had few alternatives and had to suffer from price increases, said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. But today is different.

“When prices are high, we can see demand decline more rapidly now than in the 1970s,” Jaffe said. “We don’t really use oil for electricity anymore, alternatives like electric cars are widely available and working from home means at least some people can travel less. It is a very different world.”

A plateau in global oil and gas demand could make energy prices more volatile in the near term, said Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

“The oil industry has obviously experienced boom and bust periods in the past, but it was always clear that demand would continue to increase over the long term,” Bordoff said. “Now there is much more uncertainty about what will happen.”

Even if demand for fossil fuels peaks this decade, the world will still need much stricter climate policies to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a goal that many world leaders have supported to reduce the risk of catastrophic weather. interruptions.

In a report last month, the International Energy Agency outlined some possibilities, including bans on gasoline-powered cars and greater investments in power grids and technologies such as nuclear power or clean hydrogen.

“A spike in fossil fuel demand would be significant, but meeting our climate goals would require a sharp decline at a scale and pace we have not yet seen,” Bordoff said.

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