Big Oil's death by a thousand small cuts

Tesla Model 3 photo
CC BY 2.0 Pricemon 141

A number of headlines crossed my radar recently:

Paris to launch world's largest fleet of electric bikes (Reuters)
Two big new electric ferries coming to Canada (Electrek)
Tesla Model 3 helps push EV sales in Canada to record 8% of new car sales (also Electrek)
Duke University adds Proterra Catalyst battery electric buses and charging stations to its fleet (San Francisco Business Times)
Uber: London drivers must use hybrid or fully electric cars from 2020 (The Guardian)

Treehugger could justifiably write an article about each and every one of these stories. Indeed they are very much parallel with EasyJet testing passenger electric planes next year, or Amsterdam's canal boats going electric, but it's the gestalt of these various stories that I'm really interested in.

Because project by project, and bit by bit, it's becoming harder to see how Big Oil can continue to dominate our energy landscape. Sure, we'll be using oil for some time—at least until we genuinely get serious about the climate crisis that is already upon us, but there are now just so many directions from which oil demand growth (and eventually oil demand) is being chipped away at. It's not too hard to imagine a time when investors begin to genuinely get nervous and move their money on a large scale. And this would kick off the kinds of unpredictable chain reactions that can really undermine even the most incumbent of industries.

Every time we write about electric cars, or e-bikes, or mass transit, or freight hauling, somebody somewhere points out that it's only a small percentage of overall oil demand. But that's no longer the point. The sheer diversity of sectors from which progress can be—and often is—being made that we can expect a cumulative effort to really start changing the future prospects of Big Oil in particular and fossil fuels in general.

Of course nothing is guaranteed. Indeed as soon as I write this, I suspect Lloyd will post a counterpoint about pickup trucks and SUVs taking over the world. And he won't be wrong—to achieve the kind of broad-based technological and societal shift I'm alluding to above will take effort, determination and coordination. But rest assured that even actions or projects that feel small enough to be insignificant—skipping a straw or asking a restaurant to dump theirs, for example—are adding another drop to a bucket that has the very real potential to overflow.

At some point it could become the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back...

Big Oil's death by a thousand small cuts
Sure, we'll be using oil for a while. But where, exactly, is demand growth going to come from?

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