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Did BP Really Say That Global Oil Demand Has Peaked? No, Not Really.

During a panel discussion in which I participated recently with three energy experts, the moderator asked us if we agreed with the recent projection by British oil giant BP that oil demand may have already peaked during 2019. Everyone on the panel answered with a firm “no.”

From my own perspective, I gave that answer in large part because all of the dozens of previous “peak oil” predictions – whether from the supply side or the more recent demand side reasoning – have turned out to be entirely wrong, often in hilarious fashion. From an historical perspective, it just seems like the safer position to take.

That’s not to downplay the position assumed by BP, whose internal expertise is undeniable. But it’s key to note that much of the media coverage the company’s findings have received portrays BP’s position as being far more absolute than it really is. The company’s position on “peak oil” is in fact highly-qualified.

As a part of its recently-released Global Energy Outlook study, the company ran three scenarios based on differing assumptions regarding how rapidly governments around the world would attempt to move to adopt emissions-reducing policies and subsidize renewables. The cases were labeled “Rapid” (the most aggressive assumptions), “Net-Zero” (assuming most governments would adopt ‘net-zero by 2050’ policies) and “Business as Usual”, in which progression would continue on the slower path seen to date.

In a COVID-19 hampered world in which governments across the globe are teetering on the brink of insolvency, the “Business as Usual” scenario certainly appears to be most likely to persist for the time being, given the multi-trillion dollar costs involved in the other two cases. Under that scenario, BP in fact projects that global demand will not only recover to pre-COVID levels seen late last year, but continue to grow through the year 2030.

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