Meet the 10 execs shaping the future of the energy industry

Welcome to Insider Energy, a weekly energy newsletter brought to you by Business Insider. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Let’s jump right in. 

california fires

A firefighter battles the Creek Fire as it threatens homes in the Cascadel Woods neighborhood of Madera County, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020.

Noah Berger/AP

California fires: A tipping point in talking about climate change 

I often hear that it’s tough to communicate about climate change because it’s not concrete like, say, poaching. 

More than three million acres have burned in California. Six of the 20 largest fires in the state’s history have taken place this year. More than a dozen people have died throughout the West Coast. 

That’s pretty dang concrete. 

And I think it’s fair to say that linking events like these to climate change is finally becoming mainstream. It’s just unfortunate that it takes so much death and devastation to get there.

The link: Global warming is sapping moisture from California, which means vegetation is drier and more likely to ignite. 

Other side effects include: The fires in California could spark a financial crisis, Reuters reported. At least we know what that’s like. 

  • “Wildfires across the US West are among the sparks from climate change that could ignite a US financial crisis by damaging home values, state tourism, and local government budgets.”

Energy implications: The wildfires are likely to ramp up pressure on utilities and oil companies to decarbonize. 

  • There’s likely to be a surge in home-battery and rooftop solar sales in the months to come, giving companies like Sunrun and Tesla a boost. 
  • That’s because heatwaves and dry conditions hike up the risk of power outages, either as a preventive measure to avoid sparking wildfires or — as we saw in August — to lower demand on the grid from people running their ACs. 
  • The advantage of solar and batteries is that they can provide people with energy independence. They can also prevent heat-related blackouts from occurring in the first place by offsetting overall electricity demand. 

Denise Gray_LG Chem

Denise Gray, president and CEO, LG Chem Power

LG Chem

Needless to say, the energy industry faces a reckoning, and it has for a while. We profiled ten executives helming its transformation — from the head of New Energies at Shell to LG Chem’s EV battery czar Denise Gray, who’s pictured above.

You can see all the profiles here. (No paywall.)

What stood out to me: Oil giants will look a lot more like utilities in the coming decades, providing all kinds of power and products. Analysts say that could mean lower returns relative to what oil booms offer. 

Read more: Big oil companies say they support gay rights, but operate in more than 40 countries that criminalize same-sex behavior. It leaves some LGBTQ workers caught between 2 worlds.

Oil rig Russia

OPEC Plus reached a historic deal to curb oil production, with Russia and Saudi Arabia chipping in with steep cuts. Here, an oil worker in Russia.

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Oil prices were inching up for months since bottoming out in April. Now they’ve slid back to where they were in June, weighed down by a stalled recovery in fuel demand. 

  • Brent, the international benchmark price, is at about $40 a barrel, down 40% since the start of the year. 
  • It’s not great news for oil companies. Here’s how 20 of the top firms are responding, from cutting staff to writing down assets.  

In a recent report, analysts at Bank of America provided their best guesses about how oil demand and prices will recover. 

2020-2023: Demand for gasoline recovers, jet fuel lags behind

  • Jet fuel demand, down 50% today, will likely show only modest gains ahead of a coronavirus vaccine or other effective cure.

2025-2030: Oil demand is up, and on the ascent

  • By 2025, it will be up 4 million barrels per day (bpd), compared to 2019, settling at around 104 million bpd.

2030-2050: Electric cars kill oil growth

  • Bank of America estimates that by 2030, more than a third of all light-duty cars sold, such as sedans, will be electric.

See details of their forecasts here.

Fun fact! 

Big Oil also might be … Big Coffee? 

Both Shell and BP have said they sell a ton of coffee. It’s easy to forget that they operate massive chains of gas stations around the world, and all of them sell coffee. 

  • Shell, for example, sells 250 million cups a year, my daily intake. 250 million! 
  • (Relative to the big chains, it’s actually not that much. Dunkin says it sold about 2 billion cups in 2017.)

4 top stories we didn’t cover 

  1. Trump announced a 10-year ban on oil drilling in waters off…

Read More: Meet the 10 execs shaping the future of the energy industry

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.