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Headquarters Report - December 2014

By Edward P. Salek, Executive Director and CAE

'Opportunities live in uncertainty'

Global population growth will drive energy usage dramatically by 2040. Technology is expected to provide the solution.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE AN ADDITIONAL TWO BILLION PEOPLE LIVE ON THE PLANET, the global economy is 130 percent larger than today and energy demand climbs by about 35 percent.

These developments are not something out of a movie plot but, rather, a serious and documented scenario that’s part of the ExxonMobil Outlook for Energy study report. A presentation based on the current version of this highly regarded project, which takes a long-term global view of energy demand and supply to 2040, was a highlight of the 2014 ILMA Annual Meeting held earlier this year.

X.B. Cox, a planning manager at Exxon- Mobil Lubricants & Petroleum Specialties Co. in Fairfax, Va., walked the audience through a series of mega-issues with an emphasis on the link between energy supply and quality of life and economic growth. He also made it clear that research into more efficient and responsible energy use will be a determining factor for the accuracy of the 2040 outlook.

Meeting this expectation won’t be easy, according to the ExxonMobil study, because of certain global trends that will push the demand for energy higher. One of those trends is the growth of so-called megacities in China, India and the Middle East by 2040, because this urbanization trend tends to drive energy demand higher. For a number of complex reasons, people who live in cities use more energy.

All this will, it seems, throw down both a huge challenge and an opportunity for the tribology and lubricants community. “Opportunity lives in uncertainty,” said the Exxon- Mobil speaker.

For example, gains in efficiency are being counted on to drive reductions in energy usage and power consumption. Similarly, there is an expectation that energy-related CO2 emissions will plateau and gradually decline due to technology and fuel changes. Lubricant technology will need to keep pace with more complex challenges in areas such as additive technology and lubricant formulation. A greater diversity of vehicle power trains makes these challenges even tougher.

STLE has a role to play as the tribology and lubricants community confronts these needs. While the future might be uncertain, the likelihood of success will increase if the technical community has the skills needed to meet these challenges. This is especially true at a time of workforce evolution, when many senior technical experts are leaving the industry and being replaced by a new generation of workers inheriting some daunting problems. It is easy to see why the “learn” aspect of STLE’s “Connect. Learn. Achieve.” value proposition makes sense today and the near-term future.

To get the full story on the ExxonMobil “Outlook” report, download a free copy at: http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/energy/energy-outlook. ExxonMobil is an STLE Corporate Member.

• 2 billion more people on the planet.
• 130 percent larger global economy.
• About 35 percent greater demand for energy.
• Countries like China and India lead the growth in energy demand.
• About 60 percent of demand supplied by oil and natural gas.
• Natural gas surpasses coal as the second-largest fuel source.
• 90 percent growth in demand for electricity.
• Energy-related CO2 emissions plateau and gradually decline.

You can reach Certified Association Executive Ed Salek at esalek@stle.org.
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