I have been digesting some of BP's annual statistical review on the energy markets. BP has been doing this since 1952 and has got pretty good at it, because it's widely regarded as being both accurate and impartial.
Embedded in this year's review is a look forward till 2035, incorporating BP's best guess of what will be happening then. From a climate alarmist point of view, this is more than just a tad depressing because BP don't foresee any renewables revolution, nor a renaissance in nuclear power, nor indeed any great moves towards a low carbon future. By 2035 we should be about halfway to our goal of decarbonising our energy networks if we are to maintain the climate in our comfort zone.
Unlike many commentators from the right or neo-liberal camps, BP don't appear to argue with the science of climate change. They are fully up to speed on it, and fully cognisant of what lies ahead if we do nothing about it. There's none of this "The world will be happier if it's a bit warmer" rubbish, nor "Global warming stopped 15 years ago". In some ways this makes their forecasts even more depressing because what they seem to be saying is that the threat is real but there's nothing we can do about it because the energy markets are so big and so powerful that human avarice will trump any thoughts of putting the brakes on, however mildly. Nothing appears to stand in the way of economic growth, especially in Asia. The world looks set to be consuming far more energy in 2035 than it is today and just about the only bright spot in all this is that the switch from coal to gas will reduce the carbon intensity of the energy we use.
In fact, they are quick to point out that a 1% shift from coal to gas makes more difference to carbon emissions than a 10% growth in renewables. A-fracking we shall go? Maybe, although it's interesting to note that BP don't think fracking will ever take off in Europe because of the political opposition. They foresee Europe as being the test bed for renewables.
Impartial and objective BP's report may be, but there is something rather disturbing about such a major player in world energy markets taking such a passive role. We are facing a moment in our history when something like a Manhattan Project for energy production is required, a game changer which does for coal, oil and gas what trains did for canals, or what atomic bombs did for conventional explosives. Yet BP seems not to notice. Perhaps BP should start producing a sister report every year, looking ahead to the effects of all this fossil fuel burning will have on the environment and on our economies? Perhaps there might just be some hint at what BP thinks we might be doing about it it, instead of just continuing to sell fossil fuels to all comers?