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Oil's Flash in the Pan

Oil's big moment was forty years ago...and it didn't last long...

IN 1965, oil overtook coal as the world's primary energy source, writes Gregor Macdonald.

But only eight years later in 1973, oil itself peaked as a percentage of global energy use at 48.5%. Now, forty years later, oil is barely hanging on as the world's primary energy source, with a much reduced role as a supplier of only 33.5% of all world energy consumption. 

Because global oil production has been trapped below a ceiling since 2005, at 74 mbpd, nearly all of the world's growth in energy demand is coming through the powergrid. This means increased demand for hydro, wind, solar, natural gas and coal. Indeed, coal, which preceded oil and carried onward in a reduced role during the oil age, has been making a comeback over the past decade. On the level of power, oil held a unique supremacy for over 50 years. But the king of fossil fuels was, is, and will remain coal. And oil? Oil's role in human history will turn out to be very brief. On a longer timeline: oil was nothing but a bright, momentary flash.

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Gregor Macdonald has written for the Financial Times, The Oil Drum, and The Harvard Business Review, as well as appearing on MSNBC in the United States, BNN in Toronto, and the Keiser Report out of Paris. His writings and views have been cited in the New York Times, The FT, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, WIRED, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Foreign Policy, MoneyWeek, and the Oil And Gas Journal. Gregor currently writes an economics and energy blog gregor.us

See the full archive of Gregor Macdonald.

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