The End of Fossil Fuels is Here — The New Life

In case you've missed it, we've transitioned into a new era. People keep talking about an oi...

In case you've missed it, we've transitioned into a new era. People keep talking about an oil rebound — When is it going to come? How big is it going to be?

by Jason Simpkins

Well, let me save you some time: It doesn't matter.

Oil is over.

I'm calling it, just like I did coal years ago.

Renewables are the game now — especially solar and wind power.

While the coal, gas, and oil industries have been crashing these past few years, solar and wind have been soaring to new heights.

Demand is blowing up since they've cut costs. And they're shattering investment records, as money pours in and governments lend their support.

Clean energy is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

As an investor myself, I can't help but be astonished at this tectonic shift, this rapid growth. But what's even more jarring is what I'm seeing with my own eyes.

I never thought I'd live to see the day that fossil fuels were eradicated.

I grew up in a world with the “Big Oil” bogeyman — energy executives portrayed as grinning suits rapaciously polluting the earth and bribing politicians with briefcases full of cash.

I grew up in a world where gassing up your car was as natural and frequent an occurrence as shopping for groceries. I grew up in a house with radiators on the walls.

In many ways, that's still the world of today... but it's not the world of tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the world of electric cars and solar powered homes.

It's a world where the clean energy lobby is peddling its influence on Capitol Hill.

It's a world powered not by fuel, but by technology.

Just take a look at what I mean...

Fossils = Relics

It started with coal.

For 100 years, coal powered the planet. It accounted for more than half of U.S. energy from the 1880s to the 1980s, providing 57% of America's power as recently as 1985. But that share has shrunk rapidly in recent years, falling to 42% in 2011 and 30% in 2015.

Same is true in the United Kingdom, the world's first coal superpower. You'd have to go back to at least 1850 to find a time when coal accounted for a smaller share of the UK's power grid.

In China, obscene levels of pollution have done coal in. It still accounts for a large share of the country's power, of course. But demand has flattened and China is moving fast to switch to cleaner power sources, like wind, solar, and nuclear.

There's still oil and gas though, right?

Not really.

You see, the same fracking technology that launched a new energy boom in the 2000s has suddenly imploded. High costs (monetary as well as environmental), rock-bottom commodity prices, oversupply, and shrinking reserves have sucked the life out of this once-vibrant industry.

The boom has gone bust.

Today, there are fewer drilling rigs operating in the United States than there were in 1859.

Meanwhile, natural gas is so cheap, you can't give it away. Its price is at an 18-year low and supplies are at a record high.

In less than a year, upstream oil and gas companies have seen a 50% percent drop in revenues. Investment dollars have evaporated.

In Canada, which was right there with the U.S. at the forefront of the fracking boom, oil and gas investment has been cut in half just these past two years.

Indeed, capital spending in Canada's oil and gas industry is set to drop to $31 billion this year — a 62% decline from $81 billion in 2014. It's the biggest two-year drop since industry data was first tracked in 1947.

This is the state of fossil fuels, ladies and gentleman.

They are, as their name implies, relics of a bygone era. They're outdated and old-fashioned.

And yet, for renewables, it's a completely different story.

The Renewable Boom

While fossil fuels are getting crushed, renewables are cleaning up.

Here's a look at just some of the recent figures from the Department of Energy:

  • Over 30,000 clean energy jobs in the private sector.
  • 11,000 environmental management jobs for small businesses.
  • Financing for the first five utility-scale solar plants, with 28 existing today.
  • Renewable power for the equivalent of 6 million homes.
  • Wind power at $0.04 per kilowatt hour.
  • A 60% drop in solar panel prices.
  • Indeed, this is shaping up to be a monumental year for clean energy, especially solar.

The Solar Energy Industries Association projects a total of 11.8 gigawatts of utility-scale solar photovoltaic installations will be added this year. That would outpace both natural gas and wind in terms of growth.

And that's just utility-scale solar farms.

Add in rooftop systems, and you get another 4 gigawatts of residential and commercial solar additions.

That's over 15 gigawatts in total.

In other words, U.S. solar isn't just going to top 2015's record 7.3 gigawatts of total new photovoltaic capacity — it's going to double it.

This growth is truly remarkable.

Consider that total U.S. solar installations now exceed 25 gigawatts. That's equal to about one quarter of the country’s nuclear fleet, and up from 2 gigawatts just five years ago.

This year is going to be so big that the U.S. is set to overtake Japan as the second largest solar market in the world.

And yet, we still lag far behind China.

China is expected to install approximately 19.5 GW of solar capacity in 2016, a 14.7% increase over 2015.

India is ramping up too. So are traditional oil powers in the Middle East.

In fact, everywhere you look, around the world — the U.S., Japan, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia... everywhere — there's money moving into solar.

Since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over.

Wind power doubled four times over that same period of time. New investments in wind power could amount to 75 GW of total growth in North America from 2016 to 2025

Like I said, this is the future.

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