The 2015 SXSW Eco conference featured a presentation by Carnegie’s David Livingston titled “The New Age of Oil: Solving Climate in a Changing Market”. The presentation recounted previous unsuccessful efforts by large international oil companies to diversify themselves into “energy” companies with significant renewables businesses in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s before largely abandoning these efforts at the start of the new millennium. Since the oil crises of the 1970s, even amid high oil prices and with an increasingly heterogenous mix of new unconventional oil resources coming to market, petroleum has maintained its grip on the global transport fuels market.
Livingston introduced the Carnegie Oil Climate Index as a new tool for understanding today’s and tomorrow’s petroleum resources, and as a scientific foundation for new policies and initiatives that will choose less carbon-intensive sources and pathways over more carbon-intensive ones. The Oil Climate Index (OCI) is a collaborative effort led by Carnegie along with researchers from Stanford University and the University of Calgary. The OCI is the world’s first and only comprehensive enterprise aimed at modeling the full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of various different crude oils around the globe. Phase I of the OCI, culminating in March, involved 30 different global oils from every major world region, and found nearly a factor of two difference in emissions between the most GHG-intensive and least GHG-intensive oils in the sample. As this sample of 30 oils represents only 5 percent of the globally-traded oil market, there is far more to uncover, and a far greater emissions spread likely.