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Topic: Gas

[Episode #166] – IEA’s Climate Scenarios

As the energy transition continues to accelerate, it’s more important than ever that we update our models—both our empirical and mental models—of where we’re heading. Things that we used to take for granted, like oil and gas demand increasing every year, are no longer assured. And governments the world over are gradually tightening their restrictions on fossil fuel use and emissions, so it’s important to keep our data on climate policies and pledges current.

In this episode, we are joined by Christophe McGlade, Head of the Energy Supply Unit at IEA, to discuss the latest updates to the IEA’s Announced Pledges Scenario in light of the pledges announced at the COP26 conference in November 2021. We also revisit IEA’s other main scenarios, and review what the world needs to do to put us on a trajectory to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Other topics covered in this interview include an exploration into the gap between what emissions scenarios imply about stranded fossil fuel assets and how the oil and gas industry is actually proceeding with the blessing of governments; the role of the oil and gas industry in the energy transition; the role of negative emissions technologies in the IEA’s scenarios; and the IEA’s plan to make more of its data available for free.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #165] – Oil & Gas in Transition

Oil prices are at a 7-year high, with demand getting back toward pre-pandemic levels as the world attempts to restore economies from the impacts of covid. Oil & gas companies are feeling bullish for the first time in years, forecasting strong demand for their product for decades to come, despite the pressures of energy transition and increasingly strong climate policies. In fact, they’re bold enough to blame high oil and gas prices on the energy transition, and using those prices as an argument against it. So are they right? Or are they simply in denial about the future of their business?

In this episode, Bloomberg energy opinion columnist Liam Denning returns to sort through the various factors that are working for and against continued investment in the oil and gas sector, to understand just how much the energy transition is affecting the ever-changing outlook for their business. We also discuss the tight and delicate balance between supply and demand at this point in time, and consider where it might be going in the coming years, particularly in light of climate policy targets.

This is our deepest dive into oil and gas to date, so don’t miss it!

Geek rating: 8

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[Episode #133] – Stranded Assets

A decade ago, it was very conventional for asset managers to have exposure to the oil and gas sector as part of a diversified portfolio. Calls for them to divest from carbon assets because climate policy could render fossil fuel reserves unburnable mostly fell on deaf ears. But now the oil & gas sector has turned in a decade of underperformance, vaporizing tens of billions of dollars and becoming the worst-performing sector in the world. Now banks, asset managers, and even oil operators have now joined the ranks of those worrying aloud about the increasing risk of stranded assets. Now, the warnings about stranded assets are converging with calls for companies and investors to apply ESG filters to their activities, and investors are demanding divestment from carbon-heavy assets.

One think-tank saw all this coming: Carbon Tracker. In fact, they put the concept of stranded fossil fuel assets on the map over a decade ago. In this episode we speak with its founder, Mark Campanale, about what investors have learned from the experience of the past decade, what they still need to do going forward, and some of the more interesting efforts that are under way to encourage divestment from carbon and reorient capital toward energy transition solutions.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #121] – Winning and Losing the Policy Game

Conventional thinking is that policy supports the advancement of clean energy gradually and progressively, with hard-won gains setting up further success over time. And sometimes, it does play out this way. But sometimes it doesn’t, too. Our guest in this episode, Dr. Leah Stokes of UC Santa Barbara, describes the policymaking around energy transition as a matter of “organized combat” between clean energy advocates and incumbents in the utility and fossil fuel sectors — a process of combat which produces winners and losers. And rather than be shy about that, she argues, advocates for climate action and energy transition need to learn from their opponents and get much more organized and serious about winning policy battles.

In this two-hour interview, we talk through the history of clean energy policymaking, and how it was rolled back or thwarted, in four U.S. states. Step by step and case by case, we can learn from her original research what the winning tactics are, and how to lock in victories when we win them. This episode is critical listening for anyone involved in policymaking, regulatory interventions, crafting legislation, or activism.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #120] – Carnage in the Oil Patch

The coronavirus shutdown has taken a huge bite out of demand for oil since everyone has been forced to stay home. Exacerbated by a pricing war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, oil prices have crashed to levels not seen in nearly two decades, and oil producers are losing money hand over fist. Not only will this oil crash have wide-ranging effects on the oil industry, it will also have huge impacts on the budgets of oil-exporting countries, the economy as a whole, and the prospects for energy transition.

Can the world get past the economic impacts of the coronavirus? If it does, will oil demand recover to previous levels, or will it be permanently reduced? Which oil producers will survive this period, and which ones will go bankrupt and be swallowed up by larger rivals? And how much market share might the rivals of oil—especially rivals like electric vehicles—pick up in the aftermath of the shutdown?

To help us sort through this incredibly complex picture, Bloomberg’s Liam Denning returns to the show for a 90-minute deep dive into oil prices, supply, demand, the outlook for the world’s producers, and the outlook for the world in this episode.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

Champions of energy transition see it happening relatively quickly, emphasizing the advances that are being made in technologies, policy, and projects. While fossil fuel incumbents see a long, gradual process of energy transition, assuring us that demand for their products will remain strong for decades to come. So who’s right? Is energy transition going to be rapid, or gradual?

A new paper co-authored by Carbon Tracker, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Rocky Mountain Institute contrasts these narratives and scenarios, and identifies some key distinguishing characteristics that can help us understand where they differ, as well as clarifying their underlying assumptions and perspectives, using those insights to inform our outlooks. In this episode, one of the authors from Carbon Tracker explains the analytical framework applied to these contrasting narratives, and shares his insights about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and how incumbents will have to navigate the new reality of climate change.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #103] – A Return to Regionalism

Is “peak oil” still something to be concerned about, and if so, what does depletion of conventional oil supply suggest about our future? Our guest in this episode certainly thinks peak oil will be a key factor in the decades ahead, and he foresees a future in which humanity must downsize significantly, both in total population and in the energy intensity of our lifestyles. He believes we’ll have no choice but to return to a more regionally focused way of life, depending on local resources, and doing a lot less travel and shipping. As one of the co-founders of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, Colin Campbell’s view on the importance of oil to the global economy, and his vision of geological limits leading to declining oil production, has never wavered. And as a petroleum geologist with four decades of experience in finding and producing oil, including performing some of the first experiments with fracking, his knowledge of oil geology is unparalleled. His cautionary perspective serves to highlight the urgency of energy transition, because there are more reasons we need it to succeed in addition to eliminating carbon emissions, otherwise, oil scarcity may yet become a key factor in determining what our futures hold.

Geek rating: 4

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[Episode #88] – Energy Trade in Transition

The global energy trade is enormously complex, and its geopolitical implications are vast, but they are only made more complex by energy transition. If the US exports gas to Europe and Asia, might you expect it to largely displace coal in their power plants? Think again! What will be the geopolitical ramifications on our relationship with Russia, as we send more of our gas to China and India? And as the US weans itself off of coal, and seeks to export more coal abroad, will it be stymied by energy transition in foreign countries, as well as political impediments at home?

And what of US “energy independence?” Does it mean that the US is actually self-sufficient in energy, or even just in fossil fuels, in the sense that we may not need imports anymore? And what is the value of it anyway, especially if it also means increased dependence on export markets abroad?

Tune in as we explore some of the fascinating questions about the implications of energy transition on energy trade in this interview, and be prepared to be surprised by some of our guest’s answers!

Geek rating: 8

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[Episode #72] – The Future of Solar

The cost of solar has dropped so quickly that we’re suddenly in a world nobody really anticipated. Utility power procurement is having to pivot to solar under $0.03/kWh…including dispatchable solar with storage, displacing not just coal and nuclear, but natural gas power plants, which everyone assumed we would continue building for decades to come.

So what’s next for solar? Are we ready to phase out its incentives? Do we still need solar advocacy? And are we at risk of solar becoming so cheap that even solar developers can no longer afford to build it? Does the sun actually need to be tamed?

Our guest in this episode has a unique point of view on these issues. Adam Browning is the co-founder and Executive Director of Vote Solar, a non-profit advocacy organization in the US with the mission of bringing solar energy into the mainstream, and he knows the history and the current prospects of solar better than most.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #51] – Climate Science Part 6 – Emissions Scenarios

Modeling the future of our climate is a complex task that not too many people understand. What do we know about how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) modeling actually works? Why has the modeling community decided to model emissions separately from socioeconomic scenarios? When we hear that the RCP8.5 emissions scenario is considered a “business as usual” scenario, what assumptions are we making about all that business? And are those assumptions reasonable? Is there a climate scenario that represents an optimistic view of energy transition over the coming decades? And if so, what does it assume about the energy technologies that we will switch away from, and switch to?

These and many other questions are answered in this two-hour discussion on emissions modeling by an expert climate modeler from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), who co-chairs the working group on future scenarios for impacts, adaptation and vulnerability indicators of the International Committee On New Integrated Climate Change Assessment Scenarios. It’s a wonktastic deep dive into an esoteric subject… and it just may leave you feeling a lot more hopeful about the prospects for energy transition, and for our planet.

Geek rating: 9

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