Oil to Run Dry Before Biofuels Run Freely

Joanna Schroeder

According to a new report by researchers at the University of California, Davis, at the current pace of research and development, global oil supplies will run out 90 years before replacement technologies are ready. The study was based on stock market expectations and was published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology. The paper, “Future Sustainability Forecasting by Exchange Markets,” was based on the theory that long-term investors are good predictors of whether and when new energy technologies will see full-scale adoption.

“Our results suggest it will take a long time before renewable replacement fuels can be self-sustaining, at least from a market perspective,” said study author Debbie Niemeier, a UC Davis professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Niemeier and co-author Nataliya Malyshkina, a UC Davis postdoctoral researcher, set out to create a new tool that would help policymakers set realistic targets for environmental sustainability and evaluate the progress made toward those goals. According to a university release, two key elements of the new theory are market capitalizations (based on stock share prices) and dividends of publicly owned oil companies and alternative-energy companies.

“Sophisticated investors tend to put considerable effort into collecting, processing and understanding information relevant to the future cash flows paid by securities,” said Malyshkina. “As a result, market forecasts of future events, representing consensus predictions of a large number of investors, tend to be relatively accurate.”

Niemeier also noted that the new study’s findings are a warning that current renewable-fuel targets are not ambitious enough to prevent harm to society, economic development and natural ecosystems. She concluded, “We need stronger policy impetus to push the development of these alternative replacement technologies along.”

biofuels, Oil, Research