Exxon Mobil and Chevron, the two largest U.S. oil companies, this month committed to spending more than $50 billion each to buy smaller companies in deals that would let them produce more oil and natural gas for decades to come.
But a day after Chevron announced its acquisition, the International Energy Agency released an exhaustive report concluding that demand for oil, gas and other fossil fuels would peak by 2030 as sales of electric cars and use of renewable energy surged.
The disconnect between what oil companies and many energy experts think will happen in the coming years has never been quite this stark.
Big oil companies are doubling down on drilling for oil and gas and processing it into fuels for use in engines, power plants and industrial machinery. And, with only a few exceptions, they are not spending much on alternatives like wind and solar power and electric-car batteries.
“They are putting their money where their mouths are,” said Larry Goldstein, director of special projects at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that specializes in oil, natural gas and petroleum products.
Officials at the I.E.A., which the United States and its allies created during an oil crisis in the 1970s, think the oil companies are making a bad bet. They point to the stunningly fast growth in renewable energy and sales of electric cars, mopeds and other vehicles — one out of every five new vehicle sold this year will be battery-powered, up from one out of every 25 in 2020.
“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and is unstoppable,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director.
The kinds of energy that people and businesses use — and how they use it — over the next couple of decades will have huge environmental and economic consequences. Most climate scholars say eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, which are primarily caused by burning fossil fuels, by 2050 is essential to preventing the worst effects of climate change.
Oil executives dismiss the I.E.A.’s projections, saying the world will need their products for a long time to come.
“I personally disagree, the majors disagree, OPEC disagrees, everybody that produces oil and gas disagrees,” said Scott Sheffield, the chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, which Exxon agreed to buy for $60 billion two weeks ago. The I.E.A., Mr. Sheffield added,…