With demand for oil at an all-time low, will there be new opportunities for renewable energy?

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Some of the 27 oil tankers anchored off shore during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are viewed from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter near Long Beach, California, U.S., in a still image from video taken April 23, 2020. Image taken April 23, 2020. Photo credit: Petty Officer Third Class Aidan Cooney/US Coast Guard Reuters

The economic shutdown from COVID-19 cut the demand for oil — so much so that the price per barrel dropped below zero for the first time in history. Storage space is now more valuable than the oil itself. And things won’t get much better when the economy picks up again.

“The oil industry is basically going to shrink as a whole as the coronavirus changes people’s habits,” says Ben Lefebvre, who covers the energy industry for Politico. “These guys are basically losing their shirts.”

So what about support promised by President Trump? “The White House doesn’t want to get involved in singling out the oil industry for any kind of aid. It’s just not going to help them at the polls,” Lefebvre says.

But Dan Reicher — former energy advisor to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Google — says the federal government has ways to encourage alternative energy production. “There’s more than $40 billion sitting in the Department of Energy right now that could be used in helping to commercialize energy technologies.”

Reicher says the current situation is a wakeup call for COVID-19 and climate change, which the world is facing simultaneously. He says this will make the public more confident in their governments to take on both threats.



  • Ben Lefebvre - Energy reporter for Politico - @bjlefebvre
  • Dan Reicher - Founder and executive director of Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. - @dan_reicher
  • Margaret Renkl - New York Times contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South; author of “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.” - @MargaretRenkle


Warren Olney


Andrea Brody