We all want a cooler, healthier planet, but getting there will involve inevitable ugly tradeoffs. We will need oil and gas for 5 to 15 years, as electric vehicles (EVs), like dollars, “don’t grow on trees.”
Goldman just predicted $150-per-barrel oil (assuming Putin, UAE, and Saudi Arabia will dominate the oil market). Citi (considering Chinese lockdowns, recession, and demography) predicted $65-per-barrel oil. Both of these calls hit Bloomberg on the same day, July 5.
Either oil price suggests EVs will take time to gain market share. To me, Tesla is the oil and gas, coal-fired fashion statement of the unthinking rich! To gain market share, an EV’s battery must deliver as many miles as a full tank of gas. A mainstream EV’s price must be that of a small conventional car’s. GM and Ford have indicated as much. Consumers know that, over time, an EV’s battery fails like that of an aging cellphone. Replacement will be complicated and costly.
The EU and California are concluding that only nuclear energy can provide carbon-free “baseload” power when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. An MIT study found that the cost of battery storage makes major grid expansion uneconomic. Gov. Newsom sees renovating California’s last functioning nuclear plant (generating 9 percent of the state’s energy) as an insurance policy for surviving the long summer fire season now expected here.
As Merkel shut down its nine nuclear plants (from Fukushima fears) Germany now expects to burn brown coal — the worst of all power sources — through 2038!
If Biden were smart and courageous, he’d use his bully pulpit to teach all Americans about the tradeoffs along the path to green energy. He’d negotiate with shale producers, rather than attack them. Only shale’s “short-cycle” oil and gas production can strengthen the U.S. and European market position vs. Putin, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
“Long-cycle” investment by oil super-majors was drastically cut when the oil price crashed in 2015 and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) was marketed by fund managers. The creator of ESG has recanted, seeing precious little E, S, or G in companies bearing the label.
Biden should approach U.S. electric utilities (with 92 fully-depreciated nuclear plants) on how to renovate them with federal money. He’d show evidence that many more coal miners die than nuclear workers and evidence that nuclear waste can be safely stored (via vitrification).
Of course, disposal of oil waste isn’t simple or pretty either. Maybe there is a fitting role for the oil super-majors in carbon sequestration for hydrogen storage? Have cost/benefit analyses really been conclusive?
The North Face refused to make jackets with a Texas oil company’s logo on them, but was soon made aware that a majority of their products include petrochemicals. So, there is nothing simple or pure about getting from oil and gas to green.
Passionate calls to end oil and gas now won’t make electrification any greener any sooner than proves possible in the real world.