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Teenagers See Renewables as Fuel of Their Generation
By Andy Rowell
Donald Trump this week is launching an "energy week," pushing the argument that the U.S. will become a net exporter of oil and gas.
The president and his cronies are talking about a new era of "U.S. energy dominance," which could stretch for decades to come. However, no one believes the president anymore.
A new survey has found that over three-quarters of the world has little or no confidence in Trump's leadership or his signature policies.
And furthermore, America's kids don't believe the president and his fossil fuel hype. To today's young, the oil industry is yesterday's fuel. And coal belongs to their grandparents.
Another top level survey by global accountants Ernst & Young, into U.S. attitudes towards the oil and gas industries, stated, "The perception that the oil and gas industry is good for society decreases with each new generation."
The survey found that well over two thirds—71 percent—of teen respondents believe renewable fuels such as solar and wind are the fuels of their generation, while 56 percent said oil and gas are the fuels of their parents' generation. Interestingly, over half of teens also see coal as the fuel of their grandparent's generation.
So the oil industry is in deep trouble. Faced with rising global temperatures, a resurgent renewables industry, decreasing oil demand and fairly stagnant prices, it also faces an image problem amongst the young.
According to Ernst and Young, "Overall, the survey showed young people increasingly feel shunted by the industry and their environmental values, especially, are not matched by oil and gas companies."
Just over half of teen respondents "said oil and gas decision-makers are mostly interested in what's best for people their age," with just under half believing "the industry isn't interested in what is best for their generation."
But why should the oil industry's image problem and mistrust from today's teenagers be a problem? Because, argued Ernst and Young, "Public perception of the industry will become ever more critical."
The report outlined how "in this era of technological disruption, when many industries are fighting to stay relevant, oil and gas may be facing its 'last cycle'—a time when energy abundance, driven by technology, creates a permanent oversupply that not only keeps prices low but also allows consumers to make new choices about their energy usage."
It added, "As younger consumers grow in both number and political influence, their viewpoints will become especially vital to the continued relevance of the industry."
Interestingly of all respondents, not just teenagers, some 59 percent had a positive perception of natural gas.
This positive perception differs widely from the views of scientists, who argue that even gas, the so-called cleaner bridge fuel, has no future.
A report published earlier this month by Carbon Action Tracker found that "Natural gas is often perceived as a clean source of energy that complements variable renewable technologies."
However, gas has no future: "The Paris agreement long-term temperature goal requires a complete decarbonization of the power sector by 2050. This leaves little space for any kind of fossil fuel, including natural gas." If companies continue to invest in gas, they risk investing in stranded assets.
Ernst and Young argued that, in these changing times, for the oil industry to survive there is a "need to change public perception to secure the future of the industry."
This conclusion is wrong. The industry doesn't need to change perceptions. It needs to change its business model and join the renewable revolution. Only then will it have a guaranteed future. No matter how many "Energy Weeks" this misguided president launches.
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