Big Oil Should Be Worried About Amazon’s Battery Play
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- While you were busy reading Elon Musk’s tweets, Audi AG was unveiling its Tesla challenger, the E-tron. One of the most interesting bits of the glitzy launch concerned simply plugging the thing in: The carmaker, it turns out, has teamed up with Amazon.com Inc. to install home chargers for E-tron buyers.
While Amazon helping to get new plugs put into garages may not scream revolution, it should still worry the likes of Exxon Mobil Corp. The oil industry has long been more concerned with generating supply than encouraging demand—why bother, when drivers had no alternative? The hassle of charging has long been one of the things holding back the electrical vehicle market. Amazon’s entry will make that a whole lot easier, potentially representing a major threat in oil’s biggest market.
The fossil fuel industry should be worried about a company such as Amazon encroaching on its territory. Back in the summer of 2008, three of the world’s five most valuable companies produced oil and gas. Exxon was No. 1. Today, four years after a global collapse in oil prices, Big Tech dominates and Exxon struggles to stay in the top 10.
Amazon momentarily puzzled investors in June 2017 when it announced it would spend $14 billion on the grocery chain Whole Foods; its stock has virtually doubled since. Bubbly this may be, but that’s beside the point: If you’re reading this online, you’re enjoying the legacy of one of the biggest bubbles ever. What matters is that Amazon has taken a toehold in yet two more businesses: energy and transportation. Its shareholders won’t care, but Big Oil should.
● Alexa, Can You Charge My Car?
Speaking at a London conference, Nathaniel Bullard of Bloomberg New Energy Finance listed some ways Amazon might make EV ownership more attractive. What if Alexa could place your Whole Foods order while you were on your way to the store? Or start charging your car when electricity prices are lowest?
● Reined In
Spending on upstream oil and gas development has declined by $308 billion since 2014. Why invest so much in reserves if demand for oil might falter?
● Over the Top
Ten years ago, the phrase “peak oil” referred to supply. Today it’s more often used in the context of peak demand—a much less cheery prospect for the fossil fuel industry.
● Big Oil Meets Big Tech
In the summer of 2008 fossil fuel companies ruled the capital markets. Today they’re lucky if they can still compete with the biggest players, almost all of which serve the digital economy. —Denning is an energy columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.
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