Man created the most favorable conditions for his development, having mastered the energy of fossil fuels in the middle of the nineteenth century, and since then the world population has been growing rapidly, destroying natural ecosystems and thereby endangering his future. At present, about 15 million tons of coal and 10 million tons of oil are burned in one day in furnaces, about two trillion tons of greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere by chimneys and exhaust pipes.
Each kilowatt-hour of energy used by mankind, due to the greenhouse effect, adds 16 kilowatt-hour of thermal energy to the Earth’s climate system. The global warming anomaly observed today is 1.2 ° C. Over the past century, the climatic line between the tropics and the Arctic has been gradually blurring. Every 10 years, the world is warming by 0.18оС, and in Russia – by 0.45оС. Over the past half century, the average duration of autumn, winter and spring has decreased, while the duration of summer has increased from 78 to 95 days. It should be feared that the fate of mankind may repeat the fate of the dinosaurs, whose disappearance no one particularly mourns today.
A reasonable part of the world community has realized the imbalance of the climate caused by man and is trying to plan its further actions. The Paris Agreement is just such a document aimed at combating global warming. The gradual transition to renewable energy sources (RES) will solve two problems: firstly, it will stop the dangerous rise in global temperature within 2oC compared to the pre-industrial level; secondly, it will prepare humanity for the imminent depletion of oil and other types of fossil fuels.
To date, the proven world reserves of oil are 245 billion tons, and natural gas (NG) – 197 trillion cubic meters. Venezuela holds the absolute record for oil reserves (304 billion barrels), and Russia holds the record for gas reserves (38 trillion cubic meters). At the current rate of consumption of hydrocarbons, proven oil reserves will last for 53 years, and GHG reserves – for 60 years.
In recent years, the rate of growth in oil production has slowed down. There are several reasons for this. First, the rate of growth of oil reserves is decreasing all over the world compared to its production. Secondly, circumstances force the importing countries to pursue energy conservation policies. Third, environmental and economic considerations have prompted an increase in the use of natural gas. Fourth, all countries are committed to achieving carbon neutrality and ending fossil fuel subsidies.
Over the past half century, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia have extracted 25 billion tons of oil each from the bowels. By the beginning of the 21st century, the world stock of producing wells approached 1 million, of which the USA accounted for more than 500 thousand, Russia – more than 100 thousand, and Saudi Arabia – only about 2 thousand wells. This difference is explained by the different productivity of wells: in the USA it averages 1.5 tons / day, and in Saudi Arabia – more than 700 tons / day. At the same time, not all companies disclose data on the cost of oil production, the average value of which varies widely: from $ 1.5 per barrel in the Saudi Kingdom to $ 10 in Norway and Venezuela.
The unpredictability of oil prices has a strong depressing effect on the economies of many countries. For example, the OPEC + countries planned to reduce oil production in 2020 by 1.7 million barrels per day. and produce 100 million barrels per day. However, Russia refused to reduce production, after which the countries of the Persian Gulf put into motion the tried and tested “oil weapon”, instantly bringing down the oil price to $ 16 / bbl. In addition, the discount actions of Arab sheikhs on the world economy have been intensified by the global coronavirus pandemic. The history of the early 1980s has practically repeated itself, when, thanks to the efforts of the United States and Saudi Arabia, oil prices fell to $ 8 per barrel, which, according to politicians, hastened the collapse of the USSR.
The unbalanced oil market in 2020 will not come to equilibrium soon. To achieve this goal, the OPEC + countries decided to reduce oil production by 6 million barrels per day. until April 2022. However, it will not be easy to achieve this goal, because not only the pandemic, but also the growing policy of decarbonization of energy, is hampering the rise in the market for oil and other fossil fuels.
Coal miners and oil workers earn their living honestly by extracting and selling what is in demand today. But you need to understand that tomorrow there will be no similar demand for fossil fuels. London-based think tank Carbon Traker published a report “Beyond Fossil”, in which it warns that oil demand will gradually fall, then it will collapse, and one should not even hope for a “soft plateau” in the fall in hydrocarbon consumption. By 2040, oil-producing countries risk losing $ 13 trillion.
Anticipating this prospect, some oil companies are prudently diversifying their assets. For example, oil workers in Saudi Arabia are investing in port infrastructure, and Total has bought shares in a company specializing in the production of wind, solar and hydraulic power. These companies understand the inevitability of the depletion of oil and the transition to “green” energy, so they timely build their vertically integrated business in the renewable energy industry.
Russia has about 16 billion tons of proven oil reserves, which will last for 35 years. At the same time, only 36% of oil fields are profitable for development. The Accounts Chamber believes that 65% of the oil reserves in the Russian Arctic are difficult to recover and in 20 years, due to the lack of infrastructure and the remoteness of the fields from the centers of consumption, oil production will become very expensive. The question arises: why is Russia, with its limited reserves of oil and gas, so generously selling these important mineral resources? With a non-stop increase in energy exports, our domestic reserves will run out faster than global ones. It is wasteful to sell limited stocks of crude oil in volumes exceeding 200 million tons / year! For example, the United States prohibits its companies from exporting oil, while Qatar and the United Arab Emirates set quotas for the export of hydrocarbons so that their internal reserves would last for 100 years. Back in the 21st century, the founder of Russian oil refining, Viktor Ragozin, said: “Exporting oil outside the country is tantamount to deliberate ruin of Russia, taking away earnings from the Russian people.”
Recently, President Putin instructed the Government of the Russian Federation and business to prepare by May a list of investment projects using the available funds of the National Welfare Fund (NWF). In this list, as a matter of priority, it is necessary to include the construction of a dozen petrochemical plants for the production of mineral fertilizers, plastics, synthetic rubber and synthetic fibers.
There is another important area where the free funds of the NWF should be directed. In January 2021, EU foreign ministers announced that a European Green Deal would be central to their diplomatic work and called for an end to the use of coal and oil for power generation. EU countries are introducing taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and intend to introduce a cross-border carbon duty on imported products. In the second half of this century, there will be practically no place for coal and oil as fuel on the world energy markets.
EU countries require that steel, aluminum and products from them be produced using “green energy”. Essentially, this is the beginning of the first climate war world. Russia faces a choice: either to introduce a carbon tax, which will increase the cost of production for which the population will pay, or to actively replace generation based on the combustion of coal and oil with renewable energy sources (RES). If Russia does not do either one or the other, then it will be cut off from world markets by unbearable carbon customs duties, and we will only have to trade with Africa.
In order not to lose in the climate war, Russia must decarbonize the economy and rely on reliable hydropower, which is the best alternative to “coal projects.” All developed countries use their hydro potential by 70–90%, and Russia, rich in hydro resources, only by 20%. One and a half dozen large hydroelectric power plants built during the Soviet era constitute the modern basis of Russian “green energy”. Therefore, the list of investment projects using the free funds of the NWF, which Vladimir Putin speaks of, must include the construction of at least two or three large hydroelectric power plants in Siberia and the Far East.
We must pass on a safe world to children born in the 21st century. A comfortable stay of a person on a densely populated Earth and the struggle for a familiar comfortable climate are expensive. It seems that by 2050, due to the high cost of the forced energy transition, humanity will not have time to rebuild the economy in a green way. And when, by the end of the 21st century, it does rebuild, then without oil, coal and gas it will be able to produce energy in volumes safe for the biosphere no more than 50 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, which is three to four times less than the level of modern consumption. Therefore, the future world on planet Earth beyond the limits of fossil fuels should be pondered by multibillion-dollar humanity.