Oil background image

Oil over? The black gold is losing its lustre

Image credit: Dreamstime

The global pandemic may be the final nail in the oil industry’s coffin, but what will be the knock-on effects of its downfall?

“Can you imagine a world without oil? No automobiles, no heat...”

“And polish.”

“No ink.”

“And Nylon.”

“No detergents.”

“And Perspex. You wouldn’t get any Perspex.”

“No polythene.”

“Dry cleaning fluid.”

“And waterproof coats... They make dry cleaning fluid out of oil? I didn’t know that.”

Oil ruled the world when this conversation between Mac (Peter Riegert) and Danny (Peter Capaldi) appeared in the 1983 film ‘Local Hero’. “It’s some business,” muses Danny. “There’s no other business,” Mac declares.

Back then, not so long after the oil crisis, any talk of the end of oil was more around it running out than falling demand or its replacement. North Sea oil won’t last forever, we were warned, as its revenues brought much-needed resources to governments on both sides of the North Sea. The geology and economics of oil are such that it has always been available if the demand is there, but now that demand is waning.

There was a point last year when producers literally couldn’t give it away. Unique circumstances, for sure, but the price has been falling for a while as more renewables sources come on stream. It’s true that last year saw President Trump championing the oil industry once again, but his defeat and the US rejoining the Paris agreement makes his policy look like a last hurrah for the petrolhead and the oil magnates rather than a real reversal.

Is it all over for oil, is the question we pose in our latest issue of E&T. Can we and should we learn to live without it? Len Williams examines the issues in ending our reliance on oil, while Heidi Vella looks at the ten steps to a net-zero UK and Chris Edwards analyses how the shifting global energy mix will change the global power balance. Could Chile be the next Saudi Arabia of the energy industry?

Can the oil industry change? Elaine Maslin examines the industry’s chances of decarbonising and greening itself while Helena Pozniak hears why the declining popularity of careers in oil and gas is a problem.

graphic showing oil refinery closures

Image credit: Graphic News

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