China is already shutting down its coal-fired plants in Beijing. It has imposed a ban on new coal plants in key regions after a wave of anti-smog protests. Deutsche Bank and Sanford Bernstein both expect China's coal use to peak as soon as 2016, a market earthquake given that the country currently consumes half the world's coal supply.
The US in turn has agreed to cut emissions by 26-28pc below 2005 levels by 2025, doubling the rate of CO2 emission cuts to around 2.6pc each year in the 2020s.
Whether or not you agree with the hypothesis of man-made global warming, the political reality is that the US, China, and Europe are all coming into broad alignment. Coal faces slow extinction by clean air controls, while oil faces a future of carbon pricing that must curb demand growth far below what was once expected and below what is still priced into the business models of the oil industry.
This is happening just as solar costs fall far enough to compete toe-to-toe with diesel across much of Asia, and to reach "socket parity" for private homes in much of Europe and America. The technological advantage is moving only in one direction only as scientists learn how to capture ever more of the sun's energy, and how to store the electricity cheaply for release during the night. The cross-over point is already in sight by the mid-2020s.
Mr Lewis said shareholders of the big oil companies are starting to ask why their boards are ignoring so much political and technological risk, investing their money in projects that are so likely to prove ruinous, and doing so mechanically as if nothing had changed.
"Alarm bells are ringing. Investors can see that this is unsustainable. They are starting to ask whether it wouldn't be better to return cash to shareholders, and wind down the companies," he said.
Will the fossil fuel companies become fossils themselves?
Yes, but the all-important question for investors is when?
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