America’s appetite for fossil fuels has come roaring back as the economy cranks into gear, providing a boost to energy groups but flying in the face of Washington’s drive to slash emissions. Motorists’ return to the roads following the loosening of pandemic restrictions is pushing up fuel demand and the bottom lines of oil refiners, while a shift away from natural gas in power generation has been a boon to coal miners.
The resurgence comes as floods and wildfires in many parts of the world lay bare the destructive impacts of climate change, which a landmark report last week determined was “unequivocally” the result of human activity — mainly through the burning of fossil fuels.
Petrol demand collapsed last year as the pandemic forced people to stay home. But the vaccine rollout and a loosening of restrictions has allowed American motorists to return to roads in force this summer. Petrol consumption hit record levels of more than 10m barrels a day early last month.
The surge in demand has pushed up fuel prices and sparked alarm in the Biden administration, which last week pressed Russia and Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to cool the rally.
The federal Energy Information Administration expects Americans to burn through a daily average of 8.8m barrels of petrol this year, up 10 per cent on last year, but below the 9-3m b/d consumed in 2019, largely thanks to an increase in people working from home.