It is a fair bet that scientists will have conquered intermittency by the end of the decade, at which point the switch to renewables becomes a stampede. This is where great fortunes may be made, perhaps the mirror image of the wealth to be lost on fossil defaults.
Brokers Sanford Bernstein call it the new order of “global energy deflation”. Technology momentum is unstoppable, and one-way only.
Big Oil is trapped, gradually running down legacy reserves. The longer that geopolitical eruptions disguise this erosion of competitiveness by propping up prices, the more emphatic the shift to renewables. Yet if prices do drift down to $80 – as many expect – they will lose money on their exotic ventures.
The energy group Douglas-Westwood says half the oil industry needs prices of $120 or more to generate free cash flow under current drilling plans and shareholder dividends. Leverage may catch up with them, a risk flagged recently by Standard & Poor’s.