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November 2, 2017 2:30 PM, EDT
Exxon Not Threatened by Electric Cars, Says Trucks Are ‘Where the Real Action Is’
Trucks sit in a parking lot outside a Mobil gas station in Morton, Ill. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Exxon Mobil Corp. says the existential threat to oil producers from electric cars is overblown.

Despite concern that electrification will render obsolete the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine, the world’s biggest crude explorer says the 158 year-old oil industry won’t go gentle into that good night.

The electric-vehicle, or EV, fleet won’t grow fast enough to displace much in the way of fuel demand, according to Exxon Vice President Jeff Woodbury. Plus, heavy-duty trucks and petrochemicals are where the real action is anyway, he said during a conference call with analysts on Oct. 27.

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“By 2040, the fleet is about 6% EV,” Woodbury said, referring to a company forecast on the growth of electric cars. Even if you boosted that number by 50%, it would only remove about a half-million barrels a day in demand, he said, “not substantial when you think about overall oil demand of over 100 million barrels per day, at that point.”

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Should gasoline demand dry up some day, that’s OK with Exxon too. The company would rather “upgrade” those molecules into higher-profit fuels such as diesel anyway, he said.