One big question emerging from the pandemic is whether it will speed up the global shift away from oil. Life under lockdown gave a taste of a world that burns less petroleum, with consumption down by about a quarter and city dwellers from Los Angeles to New Delhi relishing the cleaner air. As restrictions eased, things weren’t exactly returning to normal. Many workers had given up on commuting and there was talk that air travel might never recover. On the other hand, rock-bottom oil prices and the desire to avoid crowded public transport had some people driving to work for the first time or taking road trips instead of flying.

1. Has the demand for oil peaked?

Possibly. As the pandemic halted trains, planes and automobiles, even the heads of big energy companies hinted at a turning point in the world’s thirst for oil. Earlier, executives with the most aggressive forecasts had “peak oil” arriving in the late 2020s, while others anticipated it decades later. Now it’s unclear whether the appetite for oil, and the prices that went with it, will ever return. Ben van Beurden, the chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, said in May that demand might be “lower-for-longer” than previous downturns. Still, the International Energy Agency, which advises nations on energy policy, is sticking with its forecast that demand will still rise past its peak before plateauing around 2030.

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