Way more of the planet’s oil will likely be turned into plastics and fertilizers instead of fuel, especially as renewables keep biting into the energy market.
That’s according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organization that conducts research on energy policy. It predicts that growing demand for plastics and other chemicals in developing economies is going to radically shift how the world uses oil. By 2030, the report projects, a third of new annual oil production will go toward chemicals instead of fuel.
As the New York Times pointed out, that would be bad news for the environment. Even as renewable energy sources reduce carbon emissions, the IEA projects that greenhouse gases from plastics and other chemicals made from oil will increase 30 percent by 2050.
“The combination of a growing global economy, rising population, and technological development will translate into an increasing demand for petrochemical products,” the report states. It also states that petrochemicals “are rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil consumption.”
For now the oil industry is still largely driven by demand for gasoline and other fuels, but as noted in the IEA report, we’re slowly but surely shifting away from fossil fuel power and toward renewables.
Still, decreasing emissions in the transportation and energy sectors while increasing the carbon footprint of plastics and other chemicals isn’t exactly a win for the environment. Clearly, transitioning away from fossil fuel power won’t be enough — we also need to address the other ways the Earth is dependent on oil.
READ MORE: There’s One Word That Looms Large in Oil’s Future: Plastics [Bloomberg]
More on oil production: Why Solar Will Bring an End to Oil