Oil refiners express skepticism, worry over electric cars


ExxonMobil oil refinery, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by WClarke [CC BY-SA 4.0]

ExxonMobil oil refinery, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by WClarke [CC BY-SA 4.0]

A recent survey by the World Refining Association shows some oil industry executives are becoming concerned about how the proliferation of electric cars may affect their business. A core of respondents, however, seem unconvinced that electric cars are a threat.

In the survey published late last month, 61.1 percent of professionals in the oil industry said they were "somewhat worried," about electric cars' impact on their business.

Just under a quarter, 23.6 percent, said they are not worried at all, noting that, "We'll all be out of the industry before EVs have any real impact."

Small minorities said they were either "very worried" (8.3 percent) or "terrified" (6.9 percent).

DON'T MISS: Oil analysts predict peak consumption in 2036

About a third of respondents said they thought electric cars will bring "very significant changes" to the refining industry. More thought the impact will be muted, with 52.8 percent saying they think growing demand for petroleum products in developing nations will offset declines in the West and in China. Another 15 percent chose "None at all," when asked the impact of electric cars on the industry.

It is interesting to note that almost half the survey respondents came from Europe, and another quarter from Asia or Australia. U.S. and Canadian respondents made up only 7.8 percent of the survey-takers.

Shell charging station in Britain (higher res)

Shell charging station in Britain (higher res)

European oil giants Shell and BP (the former British Petroleum), have made strong efforts to take part in the growing market for electric-car charging. Shell also has been a large player in building up production and distribution of hydrogen refueling infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles.

More than half the respondents (57 percent) felt electric cars will have the biggest impact in Europe. Less than a fifth (18.1 percent) said the impact would be greatest in Asia, and only 14 percent chose the U.S. and Canada.

Most (almost 71 percent) felt that electric cars will "substantially impact" the emissions of CO2 linked to global warming, but 40 percent of those respondents said other factors such as renewable energy production and changes in livestock production would have a greater impact.

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Forty percent of respondents expressed skepticism that gasoline and diesel vehicles are in rapid decline, and 42 percent said they thought hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, and biofuels have greater potential than electric cars.

Asked what will hold electric cars back, 40 percent of the oil industry professionals chose a lack of accessible charging infrastructure, and another 35 percent chose price.

READ THIS: Oil prices could double by 2020, boosting electric car sales

A plurality of respondents said their views represent increased optimism about electric cars compared with their views just two or three years ago. Another almost 17 percent said they are more worried about electric cars than before, while 40 percent said their views had not changed.

Only a little over half of oil-industry workers (56 percent) felt their companies have plans in place to weather the rise of electric cars.

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