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A new report paints a rosy picture for rapid solar and EV growth, but new US Sec'y of State Rex Tillerson could slow things down.


More Bad News For Coal, Another Rosy Report For Clean Energy — If You Ignore The Tillerson Effect

A new report paints a rosy picture for rapid solar and EV growth, but new US Sec’y of State Rex Tillerson could slow things down.

Imperial College London has more bad news for coal and oil, too. The school’s Grantham Institute has paired with the Carbon Tracker Initiative to crunch the numbers, and the results ain’t pretty. The researchers are basically accusing fossil energy companies of using alternative facts to project relatively slow growth in the clean energy sector.

The researchers project much faster growth for clean energy and electric vehicles, too. That’s great news — if you ignore the fact that new US Secretary of State is former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and ExxonMobil is the company notorious for leading the charge against climate science.

First, the bad news (for coal and oil)…

The new report is titled “Expect the Unexpected…The Disruptive Power of Low Carbon Technology.”

The report focuses shines a spotlight on power generation and ground transportation. These two sectors alone account for about half of global fuel production. That means solar and EVs pack a one-two punch:

The scenario analysis warns that big energy companies are seriously underestimating low-carbon advances with a business-as-usual approach, and that stranding of fossil fuel assets is likely as the low- carbon transition gathers pace. Growth in electric vehicles alone could lead to 2 million barrels of oil per day being displaced by 2025…

The analysts also warn that the pace of innovation has been so rapid, that their own analysis could prove to be conservative.

Rather than a business as usual approach, the researchers advocate for a “starting point” scenario that reflects actual facts. Their findings:

Solar PV could supply 23% of global power generation in 2040 and 29% by 2050, entirely phasing out coal and leaving natural gas with just a 1% market share. By contrast, ExxonMobil sees all renewables supplying just 11% of global power generation by 2040.

EVs could make up a third of the road transport market by 2035, more than half the market by 2040 and more than two thirds of market share by 2050. BP’s 2017 outlook expects EVs to make up just 6% of the market in 2035.

Coal demand could peak in 2020 and fall to half 2012 levels by 2050. Oil demand could be flat from 2020 to 2030 then fall steadily to 2050. Most major oil and gas companies do not expect coal to peak before 2030 and none see peak oil demand occurring before 2040.


Nobody Expects…Rex Tillerson!

The report makes a strong case for rapid decarbonization, but the 800-pound gorilla in the global energy room is Rex Tillerson.

As the new Secretary of State, Tillerson is going to be quite busy cleaning up after the President Trump Muslim ban and patching up relations with Mexico,  Australia and Israel to name a few.

However, considering ExxonMobil’s recent deep dives into shale gas, CleanTechnica is guessing that Tillerson will reserve some time to keep the global market for natural gas humming along.

That’s all well and good in terms of killing off coal — and erasing coal jobs — but the low carbon status of natural gas is up for debate.

ExxonMobil has been touting its new position on climate change while promoting natural gas as the low carbon fuel of the future, but fugitive emissions of the greenhouse gas methane occur all along the natural gas lifecyle, and evidence involving the local public health impacts of oil and gas fracking is piling up.

Stay tuned.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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