A report from a marketing research firm predicted that one out of every three vehicles on the road will be electric-only, curtailing the need for petroleum. The report by IHS Markit also attributed trends toward stronger environmental regulations regarding auto emissions as factors in what could be a declining petroleum industry in the coming decades.
The report also predicted that less than two-thirds of all light-duty vehicles manufactured will have a gasoline-powered engine, compared to 98 percent today. The decline in demand for gasoline, combined with the rise of ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, could go a long way toward reducing or reversing the some of the factors that have contributed to climate change. However, they could also be dangerous omens for a city and state whose economic lifeblood pours out of the ground in the form of thick, black crude oil.
The changes don’t stop with light-duty passenger vehicles. Elon Musk, the founder of the electric car manufacturer Tesla, announced that his company would be producing tractor trailer trucks that rely strictly on electric power. Retail giant Wal-Mart has reportedly already ordered 15 of the new trucks, even though they don’t go into production until 2019.
“This (the move to electric vehicles) will be the biggest change in the auto ecosystem since the beginning of the 20th century,” said Daniel Yergin, the vice chairman of IHS. Yergin also won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the history of the oil business, “The Prize”.
Houston is already taking steps to diversify its economy away from a dependence on the fortunes of the oil market. Houston already has one of the most extensive biomedical research centers in the world in the Texas Medical Center. Groups such as Station Houston are seeking to turn Houston from an oil center to a technology hub.
Can Houston survive in 2040? Most experts would answer that question, “Yes,” but it will require a major transition.