After a lot of talk this past week on the future of oil and the idea of “peak oil” and when it will occur, I began to think some about the future of the oil companies themselves. If oil production has or will peak soon, what will happen to the companies? Will they slowly fade away like obsolete tools, or will they adapt as the world changes and remain successful? Will their grasp on the economy remain steadfast, or will it diminish as other competing technologies find buyers. Or, will they simply buy out the companies that compete technologically in order to remain a force? Although it may seem a little cynical, my inclination is toward the latter.
I recently went to a student organization meeting sponsored by Chevron, and I received a little info sheet from them talking about the price of oil and the current market for oil. But just as another blogger has posted earlier today about a joint venture between Chevron and NREL into algae research, I tend to think that the oil companies will simply adapt to new technologies if they must. In fact, it seems that some of them (like Chevron) already may be doing this. Instead of being labeled as oil conglomerates, they will be labeled simply as energy conglomerates. If a company arises and produces an alternate fuel source viably, then the oil company might just buy them out and usurp their technology.
If this happens to be true, it raises the question of whether or not this is a good thing. Maybe Chevron or another oil company will earnestly begin to invest in new “greener” technologies that could reduce our consumption of oil. Or will they choose to minimize competition for the purpose of ensuring that oil’s grip on the economy is strengthened. I believe that in this case it may be more of the former, but I think an oil company’s bottom line is always priority number one and will continue as these new technologies continue to emerge.