Uncertainty rules in the carbon-based energy sector. Sure, carbon-based fuels are still plentiful, but it’s hard to find suitable locations for new wells. The industry also faces upheaval in the form of tight margins and pricing volatility. Consider that as of Aug. 17, a barrel of crude oil cost $47.10. Adjusted for inflation, that’s only marginally more than it cost 30 years ago. In addition, the theory of “peak oil” may have fallen out of vogue, but “peak oil demand” has taken its place, casting its own shadow on the industry.
The theory of peak oil demand assumes that technological advances will curb hydrocarbon use over time while simultaneously making “green” power more economically viable. As a result, hydrocarbon consumption could plateau eventually, even as global oil reserves remain bountiful. While the idea has become mainstream, there is little agreement about when oil demand will ultimately decline. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is wrestling with new regulations designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, which could further reduce hydrocarbon use.
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