Hey, enjoy that cheap gas while you can

Thirst for oil outpaces supply, coal use up — and so is carbon output

Every year, BP, the company that sometimes figures itself as being "Beyond Petroleum," even though most of us are familiar with it via its multitudinous gas stations that provide us with refined petroleum, puts out its "Statistical Review of World Energy." ( Here are some bullet points from it.) It's not exactly riveting reading, but it gives an indication of how things are going with regard to an array of energy sources, including oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, and renewables.

Simply, things are not good.

As Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive, writes in his introduction, "Growth in energy demand picked up as gains in energy efficiency slowed, coal consumption increased for the first time in four years, and carbon emissions from energy consumption grew."

As oil is of greatest concern — for the foreseeable future — to the auto industry, let's see what BP found there.

Oil prices were up. The average price (based on the Dated Brent metric) was $54.19 per barrel. While some people will point out that this is certainly not all that bad — according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the Brent spot price hit $111.63 per barrel in 2012 — the BP data show that in 2016 the price per barrel was $43.73. That is an increase of about 24 percent. In a year.

Oil consumption was up. Going back to the previous point about the cost increase, maybe this is the whole supply-demand scenario. Consumption was up 1.8 percent compared to the 10-year average of 1.2 percent. China was biggest contributor to this increase.

Oil production was "below average." This is the second year in a row that it was down. While the production was up in the U.S. — and Libya — it was down the most in both Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Refining capacity was down. This was the third year running in which capacity was down. This led to refinery utilization being at the highest level in nine years. Which is the sort of thing that leads to those headlines about a refinery going down (and gas prices going up).

One abiding concern in the global auto industry is emissions. While the U.S. seems to be becoming somewhat squishy on this from a legislative/regulatory standpoint, other developed countries — as in, the European Union members and China — are deploying regulations to help decrease emissions.

Of course, while automobiles contribute to emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA), "Twenty-seven percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is from transportation. Transportation is the second leading source of GHG emissions in the United States, just behind electricity. Between 1990 and 2015, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than any other sector." There are other forms of transportation other than light vehicles that contribute to this.

Still, both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, emissions from cars and trucks cannot be overlooked.

Looking at carbon emissions from all energy use, according to BP, they "increased by 1.6%, after little or no growth for the three years from 2014 to 2016."

The primary factor? More driving? High-performance vehicles? Endless demand for pickup trucks?



This is the fuel that seems to be the choice for power generation in many parts of the world — power that's used, say, to power Teslas.

This is the most startling passage in Bob Dudley's introduction to the 67th edition of the study: "Despite the huge policy push encouraging a switch away from coal and the rapid expansion of renewable energy in recent years, there has been no improvement in the mix of fuels feeding the global power sector over the past 20 years. Astonishingly, the share of coal in 2017 was exactly the same as in 1998. The share of non-fossil fuels was actually lower. ..."

I wonder if this will give anyone pause the next time they plug in at a Supercharger.

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