Published December 12, 2011
Energy giant Exxon Mobil has released its annual energy outlook, which predicts major growth for hybrids and other alternative-drivetrain technologies as the world seeks to lower carbon emissions and limit oil dependency. By 2040, Exxon says it expects that half of new cars will come equipped with some form of alternative propulsion system―be it hybrid, electric, fuel cell, natural gas or other. The company seems to be particularly keen on hybrids, which it predicts will far outperform other options that run on no petroleum at all. By the same date, the report says 90 percent of vehicles will still run primarily on oil.
As a corporation that frequently experiences windfall profits whenever oil prices rise to a levels that lead many Americans to struggle to pay their weekly fuel costs, Exxon is unlikely to win many popularity contests with consumers. Still, the oil giant seems to have accepted that it won't be able to rake the dough from gas-guzzlers forever, and is being realistic about the outlook for supply and demand in the coming decades.
In 2007, Exxon publicly rejected Peak Oil, the theory that the world has reached or will soon reach the half-empty mark of its recoverable petroleum reserves, saying “supplies from OPEC and non-OPEC countries, gas-related liquids and unconventional resources are growing... The ultimate peak in petroleum production may result from factors other than resource limitations."
While the 2012 energy outlook doesn't provide an endorsement of Peak Oil theory―Exxon still says it expects the world's oil reserves to continue to keep up with demand for the next 100 years―it does seem to admit that the aforementioned “factors other than resource limitations” will be powerful in determining the kinds of vehicles people drive in the coming decades. One such factor will be rising Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which will see the efficiency of the average vehicle sold in the United States rise to levels currently unattainable with a conventional gas engine.
Exxon might however take issue with California's clean transportation aims. Last week, the California Air Resources Board said it will work toward ensuring that 100 percent of vehicles purchased in its state plug in by 2040. If the whole world were follow that path, the planet's second most profitable corporation probably wouldn't remain so for long.