Fossil fuel efficiency

Greater fossil fuel efficiency can contribute to greater energy efficiency and – everything else staying equal – can help to reduce carbon emissions. However, greater fossil fuel efficiency also makes fossil fuels more competitive, thus entrenching their grip on the market. This may actually lead to a ‘lock-in’ both in economic as well as in political terms.1 As G7 leaders have resolved to phase out carbon emissions by the end of this century2, the utility of more efficient ways of burning fossil fuels may decrease over time. Our rationale for including fossil fuel efficiency is to monitor them as a rival innovation pathway for renewable energy.3 We expect that progress in fossil fuel efficiency is both an expression of and will bolster confidence in the future of fossil fuels. While this may only be directed towards a relatively short-term horizon, this may well affect longer-term expectations and strategies.

  • 1. Aghion, Philippe, Cameron Hepburn, Alexander Teytelboym, and Dimitri Zenghelis. 2014. Path Dependence, Innovation and the Economics of Climate Change. London: Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy / Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  • 2. Connolly, Kate. 2015. ‘G7 Leaders Agree to Phase out Fossil Fuel Use by End of Century’. The Guardian, June 8, sec. World news. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/08/g7-leaders-agree-phase-out-....
  • 3. Meadowcroft, James. 2011. ‘Engaging with the Politics of Sustainability Transitions’. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 1 (1): 70–75.

Knowledge development and diffusion

Patents in carbon capture & storage technology per 1000 researchers

Patents can help protect and realize innovations within carbon capture and storage technology.

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Patents in carbon capture & storage technology per mill. inhab.

Patents can help protect and realize innovations within carbon capture and storage technology.

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Patents in carbon capture and storage technology

Patents can help protect and realize innovations within carbon capture and storage technology.

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Patents in Fossil energy efficiency

Patents can help protect and realize innovations within fossil fuel efficiency.

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Patents in Fossil energy efficiency per 1000 researchers

Patents can help protect and realize innovations within fossil fuel efficiency.

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Patents in Fossil energy efficiency per mill. inhab.

Patents can help protect and realize innovations within fossil fuel efficiency.

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Scientific publications - Fossil Fuel Efficiency

Publications serve as proxy for research and knowledge diffusion activity.

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Scientific publications per 1000 researchers - Fossil Fuel Efficiency

Publications serve as proxy for research and knowledge diffusion activity

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Scientific publications per mill. inhab. - Fossil Fuel Efficiency

Publications serve as proxy for research and knowledge diffusion activity.

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Influence on the direction of search

Domestic material consumption - Fossil fuels & energy carriers

Monitoring developments in Domestic Material Consumption of fossil fuels and energy can inform where and when policy interventions for more efficient use are likely to have the greatest urgency and potential for impact.

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Energy dependence

Greater fossil fuel efficiency can help to reduce energy dependence.

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Environmental policy stringency

The EPS is an index of environmental policy instruments primarily related to climate and air pollution. Amongst other things, it covers emission limits, emissions trading and feed-in tariffs. Emission limits and trading can create more demand for fossil fuel efficiency. Feed-in tariffs can be expected to lead innovation activities away from fossil fuels to renewable energy (as do high carbon prices). The indicator may thus be ambiguous with regard to its effects on the fossil fuel innovation pathway

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GHG emissions per capita

Concern about GHG emissions can lead to either encouragement and discouragement of investments into fossil fuel efficiency, depending on the time horizon.

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GHG emissions per capita - Energy sector

Concern about GHG emissions can lead to either encouragement and discouragement of investments into fossil fuel efficiency, depending on the time horizon. The development of GHG per capita due to the energy sector can give an indications of where efficiency potentials may be. For a more complete picture it is important to also relate the emissions to the overall energy production.

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GHG emissions per capita - Industrial processes

Concern about GHG emissions can lead to either encouragement and discouragement of investments into fossil fuel efficiency, depending on the time horizon. The development of GHG per capita due to industrial processes can give an indications of where efficiency potentials may be. For a more complete picture it is important to also relate the emissions to the economic development of the industrial sector.

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Entrepreneurial experimentation

Government expenditure on fossil fuel demo projects

Demonstration projects allow for experimentation in real-world settings.

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Government expenditure on fossil ful demo projects (per capita)

Demonstration projects allow for experimentation in real-world settings.

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Legitimation of technologies

Eurobarometer survey - Environmental concern

A higher prioritisation of environmental issues should translate into more support for low or zero carbon solutions. However, this may also lead to a prioritisation of alternatives to fossil fuels rather than investments into more efficiency

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Resource mobilization

Early stage investment - Fossil fuel efficiency (GDP PPP)

Investments in relevant companies mobilise financial resources

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Late stage investment - Fossil fuel efficiency (GDP PPP)

Investments in relevant companies mobilise financial resources

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Public R&D spending - Energy sector (PPS per capita)

This may benefit the generation of fossil fuel efficiency knowledge (but also of knowledge on renewables).

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Public R&D spending - Energy sector (share of GBAORD)

This may benefit the generation of fossil fuel efficiency knowledge (but also of knowledge on renewables).

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