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Even the oil giants can now foresee the end of the gasoline age

The fall in fuel use during the pandemic has caused Shell and BP to fundamentally reappraise their future profitability
Sun 21 Jun 2020

Coronavirus has dealt the fossil-fuel industry the biggest single blow in its history, and it is clear that 2020’s plummeting demand for oil and gas is no mere flesh wound. The global Covid-19 crisis may have already triggered a terminal decline for big oil.

BP’s decision last week to reset its oil price forecasts for the next three decades was the latest tremor in a seismic shift for the industry. Its forecasts of a $75-a-barrel oil price over the next 30 years were scrapped in favour of an average price of $55. The watershed decision wiped more than $17bn from the value of its business at a stroke

Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, said at the time that the pandemic could bring the high-water mark of the oil market closer and may mean that the company shows preference to clean energy projects “which serve us better in the future”.

Van Beurden has been more cautious than Looney, but they are heading to the same conclusion. The most ancient of human terrors – a pandemic – has shown two of the world’s most powerful polluters to be out of time.

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