10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- This week, I went through my catalog of 2018 newsletters and picked my 10 favorite charts. Happy reading, and see you in 2019.

We’re not getting better at insuring natural disasters

SwissRe’s annual accounting of disasters — and the insurance against them — shows that we’re no better at insuring against those caused by nature than we were two decades ago.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

It’s dangerous to be an American pedestrian

In 2016, U.S. pedestrian fatalities hit their highest levels since 1990. Those deaths had bottomed out in 2009; they’ve risen by 46 percent since.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

Cars keep getting better

Inspired by an interview with New York University professor Scott Galloway, I looked into his assertion that automobiles are deflationary and therefore a hard market for disruptive innovation. With some help from Salim Morsy, I created a like-for-like comparison between a beloved 1980s Renault coupe and a similar, contemporary Ford. The new Ford wins in every field I can think of … except vehicle weight (the new Ford is much heavier than the 1980s Renault).

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

Another chart from this same newsletter proves the point more generally: Over four decades, U.S. cars have become more powerful, less polluting and much more efficient, and … they weigh the same as they did in 1975.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

U.S. residential power demand has peaked

U.S. houses keep getting bigger and bigger, but thanks to much more efficient devices and electronics, U.S. residential power demand peaked in 2010 and has been falling ever since. On a per-customer basis, electricity sales in megawatt-hours are up less than 10 percent over the past 28 years.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

California’s energy diet is working

In 2006, California set itself an ambitious environmental goal: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The Air Resources Board recently published its assessment of 2016 — and the state has already hit its 2020 target. California is on a low-carbon diet, and the diet is working.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

Cars with plugs are replacing hybrids

Also in California: Data from the largest auto market in the U.S. shows that cars with plugs (both plug-in hybrids and pure electrics) have overtaken hybrids such as the Toyota Prius as a percentage of sales.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

There’s more going on, though, within this plug-or-no-plug automobile dynamic: Pure electric vehicles are looking much more promising than plug-in hybrids with both a combustion engine and a battery drivetrain.

OPEC talks electric vehicles as much as it talks tight oil

Liam Denning and I crunched through the text of a decade’s worth of OPEC’s annual oil outlooks to compare mentions of “tight oil” and “electric vehicles.” In its latest outlook, OPEC mentions each 174 times … but charted over 11 years, “tight oil” is cyclical while “electric vehicles” is structural.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

A cloudy future

Keeping with the text-crunching, I used the Bloomberg Terminal’s document-search function to pull every mention of the phrase “utility of the future” in publicly traded utility company filings since 2008. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that in 2016, MIT published a big, high-profile, heavily utility-sponsored report called "Utility of the Future."

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

Tesla’s Model 3 makes its mark

System planners and forecasters take a long view of changes in the transport fuel mix. There’s a bit of a wild card, though, in those long-term efforts: Automobiles in particular are devices of culture and behavior, not just economics. Both culture and behavior can change quickly, as U.S. sales of the Tesla Model 3 show. The Model 3 is now more popular than the entry-level luxury offerings of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz combined.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

Bonus chart: Half the world is now using the internet

It took almost the entirety of human existence — from our first inklings of civilization until the year 2007 — for half the human population to be city dwellers. It took all of 27 years for half the world be on the internet, according to the latest Measuring the Information Society Report from the International Telecommunication Union.

10 Charts That Tell Us Where We’re Headed

Holiday reading

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Nathaniel Bullard is a BloombergNEF energy analyst, covering technology and business model innovation and system-wide resource transitions.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.