Briefly

Stuff that matters

Let's science the shale out of it

Innovation, not scarcity, could bring us peak oil as soon as 2020.

According to a new report from Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, cheaper solar and electric vehicles could make fossil fuel obsolete faster than we think.

The authors make the case that most projections suffer from “straight-line syndrome” where fossil fuel demand grows continuously — but that doesn’t account for the non-straight-line exponential growth of low-carbon technology.

In one scenario, new inventions could lead to electric cars so cheap that the world reaches peak internal-combustion engine by 2020:screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-10-35-10-am

Combine that projection with falling solar costs and international commitments to address climate change, and you inevitably get less and less demand for oil and coal. If inventors are able to keep coming up with good ideas, gas-powered cars may look as quaint as horse-drawn buggies by 2050.