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Electric Cars Are About to Dent Global Gasoline Consumption

Demand for the fuel rose dramatically in the last 25 years—but forecasts claim that electric vehicles are about to force a worldwide decline.
November 22, 2016

Gasoline is like some kind of drug: we know it’s bad for the planet, but we just can’t give it up. Now a number of voices from the energy industry suggest that our addiction could begin to ease, thanks to the rise of electric cars. In fact, demand for passenger vehicle gas may fall by 2020.

A new forecast by the International Energy Agency claims that global gasoline consumption for passenger vehicles will decrease in the next five years. The decline is predicted to be pretty modest: according to Bloomberg, the agency reckons that global consumption will fall from 23 million barrels of gas per day last year to 22.8 million barrels a day by 2020. The IEA’s predictions suggest that there’s scope for demand to increase again at some point before 2040.

But by the time that date rolls around, the agency thinks that consumption will have decreased by 0.2 percent compared to today. That’s small, but it’s the right direction—especially when you consider that consumption grew by 20 percent in the last 25 years.

Interestingly, the IEA’s prediction is much sunnier for oil producers than some estimates from within the industry. Shell, for example, has recently stated that total oil demand could peak in just five years’ time. In contrast, the IEA reckons other types of refined oil, such as jet fuel and diesel, will continue to grow.

The IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, attributes the predictions to the fact that “electric cars are happening.” He’s right: a recent report suggested that as many as two-thirds of all cars on the road in some wealthy cities could be electric by 2030.

A surge in electric car use and a leveling-off of gas demand can’t come soon enough: transportation could surpass the electricity sector as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States this year. Making sure the situation gets better is a primary concern in the fight against climate change.

Hopefully, then, government initiatives set to encourage the use of electrics vehicles will continue to make headway under Donald Trump’s presidency. Ending our addiction depends on it.

(Read more: Bloomberg, Independent, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Have Become Top Carbon Polluters,” “Here’s How to Speed Up the Electric Car Revolution,” “An Electric Car Future Needs Non-Trumpian Policies”)

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