23 Trends for 2023 : #13 Peak Carbon


We all know the phrase – insanity is doing the same thing and over again and expecting a different result each time. It doesn’t happen. Neither does the mindset of clinging to old business models, out-of-date product ideas, irrelevant concepts, and reliance on yesterday’s strategy. In the context of that, it also includes the end of the era of oil and carbon – the focus on trend #13 of my 23 Trends for 2023, Peak Carbon.

Because essentially, oil is over – in essence, peak carbon.

This post includes all kinds of charts and graphs and statistics and observations. It’s pretty certain that some folks will try to draw me into a micro-argument of sorts, but they fail to miss the point – the direction of our future has shifted.


What is certain is that from an economic and momentum perspective, the idea of carbon as our primary energy source is essentially done. Carbon usage might peak in 2023 or maybe not (likely not), but what has peaked is our belief that it is the main energy input going into the rest of the century. Because it won’t be.

Simply put, there is way too much momentum with the ‘other stuff.’ The cost of solar energy generation continues to collapse at a staggering pace. Most new cars and trucks will be electric within ten years. Batteries are becoming the heart of our energy grid, vehicles and so much more Oil companies get it, and they are busy fashioning a future based on the production of petrochemical substances rather than energy carbon, recognizing their days are done. Most new investments in energy – 90%+ – will go into renewables, batteries, and the grid instead of oil and carbon. That’s not from me – that’s from Bloomberg. And on the horizon is then the fascinating potential of energy fusion – although the excessive hype last week would make something that it is imminent. (Hint: it isn’t.) (The wingnut set will argue something about the unreliability of wind generation because of wind, but they are too busy being wingnuts to understand there is this thing called batteries.)

The era of oil is over. Carbon is done. Natural gas is but an insurance policy. Coal? Laughable.

Here are the elements of what is underway. Add them together, and you get a clear trend.


Let’s start with batteries, battery scienceand Koomey’s Law:

Simply put, the relentless march of battery science continues on with stunning acceleration – and since it is at the heart of the renewables infrastructure, electric vehicles and so much more, this alone spells the end of carbon.

Most of the business world – including energy companies – willingly admit that batteries are the key to the acceleration o the end of carbon:

The key reason is that battery storage technology accelerates the viability of the other pathways to the end of carbon – such as solar energy:

And the simple act is – the cost of battery storage just continues to … collapse.

This graph states it all:

Leading to large-scale battery storage installations – what we call ‘utility-scale battery.

So, that’s batteries.

Accelerating Solar

The reality is this – we have long passed grid parity. That’s the point at which the cost of generation of energy via solar becomes less than doing the same by carbon.

You can see why in posts like this:

The trend downward is relentless:

I need not go on; there is no shortage of insight that the cost of solar continues to plummet, to such a degree that it is becoming far less than carbon alternatives.

The impact of technology

Another piece of the puzzle is small, local energy microgrids.

Simply put, technology companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are building out technology to help us to become more intelligent, interactive, and efficient with all this new in-home and in-building energy technology.

What’s the future of energy?

I hit the virtual broadcast studio at one time for a virtual keynote for a rural energy group. I break it down into 20 key trends of accelerating realities that define our future. Right around the same time last week, I did a keynote for the leadership team of Siemens Energy on ‘what comes next’ in this industry – one of the most exciting industries around today!

Want to explore the trends?

Here’s a playlist of short, sharp shocks of insight, each 3 to 4 minutes in length. You’ll find the microgrid story at the start of trends 7 to 12.

Electric Vehicles

Then there are electric vehicles. Pretty much everyone admits that the end of the gasoline/diesel motor has come to an end – that much is a given. What is also evident is that it is happening at a different pace in different countries, but these images show our path forward.

And car companies know they have a big leap to get there.

To me, certain trends are undeniable – and so while there is much gnashing of teeth and all kinds of angst with the politics around the industry, the end game is this: oil is a sunset industry, in decline, kaput-ing. Quite simply, we’ve got so much momentum happening with the push to electric vehicle technology, the acceleration of battery storage science, micro-grid concepts, fast-paced developments with wind and solar and renewables and so much more … that, essentially, oil is over.

Everybody knows.

Every knows carbon is done. Even global oil company CEOs.

So the fact is, what are you going to do with this trend? Here’s a clip where I’m on stage in San Diego, speaking to the reality of what is occurring.

This is not me just saying it. There’s one slide I use in my slide deck, that captures the essence of what is going on. This is a pretty big trend!

Over the years, I’ve spoken at numerous global client events about this trend, have filmed trend videos on the issue, and have covered it in various other ways. Here’s a bit of a compilation of what I’ve said!

Because everybody knows! Carbon is over.

Some of my 19 trends for 2019 aren’t profound, in that people are already aware of them. What is important is acknowledging the speed and reality of the trend. So here’s the thing: despite the current moment of political idiocy around us involving 19th coal, there is one undeniable fact going into the future: oil and carbon are over. As the CEO of one global energy company said on stage before my keynote for a global energy conference, “we have one last oil boom left. Then that’s it.” Oil will always be with us, but it is now on the decline and alternatives are clearly on the ascendant.

The acceleration of the science that leads to the end of oil is undeniable. Batteries EV’s, solar, wind, biomass – you name it, and in the long run, science wins.

I was in Oman at one time, keynoting a global transportation conference. The Middle East region, the world’s largest oil producer, has known for a while that the industry is inevitably in decline. There will always be sunshine. Ride the trends!

The Bottom Line?

It’s this:

One day we’ll look back and realize that the era of oil lasted for about 150 years – and that it then came to an abrupt and dramatic end. That one day? It’s happening right now!” – #Futurist Jim Carroll

Oil is over. Carbon is done. Natural gas is but an insurance policy. Coal? Laughable.

We’re moving rapidly to a world dominated by renewables, microgrids, local battery storage technology, electrified roads, electric vehicles, and more. 90% of the energy investment between now and 2050 will go into this new world, and not the old.

There are massive investments and projects underway in this new world of energy – and both the producers and the utilities know it. They’re paying diplomatic respect to the 20th-century idiots, but are busy investing in the 21st-century.

Science is driving the trend – simply look at the rapid evolution of battery storage technology. Micro-grids? They’ve gone from a concept to a disruptive reality faster than you can say disruption.

Disruption? This utility might find itself in the business of building electrified roads at the same speed that a massive shift to electric vehicles accelerates.

And it’s happening faster than you think!


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.