Low gas prices: a climate-destroying trap?

A scholar, Ruth Greenspan Bell, and Max Rodenbeck, a former Middle East editor for The Economist, argue in an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times that the drop in oil prices has as much to do with keeping the U.S. addicted to oil, not to mention defeating climate-saving initiatives, as it does with anything else. 

The decade of historically high oil prices before the recent crash produced some worrying trends for big [oil] producers. From 2004 to 2014, the fuel efficiency of cars sold in the U.S. rose 25%. Electric cars make up a tiny proportion, but their sales have more than doubled in the last two years.

With oil demand flat and technology constantly improving, one does not have to be a gloomy Saudi oilman to imagine a future tipping point, when investment in the broader infrastructure around electric vehicles — from manufacturing to sales and servicing — overtakes gasoline-powered spending. 

They point out that oil producers need good customers, just as parasites need a big host, and that the nation shows some signs of kicking — or at least reducing — its addiction to imported oil. This could be good for the climate, but bad for oil producers. 

There is also the possibility that negotiations conducted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change might actually conclude in December with a series of national commitments to cut back greenhouse gas emissions. That, buttressed by the recent U.S. deal with China to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and other efforts to advance renewables in India, suggests a level of movement on containing greenhouse gas emissions not seen in the two decades since negotiations began.

The possibility of climate safety! Can't have that. As usual, Tom Toles says it best — with a drawing. 

CheapoiltrapSaudi

 

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