Mar 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Mobile location data shows just how much travel has dropped off

Reproduced from Descartes Labs; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new analysis from the data science company Descartes Labs helps provide a window onto how the global coronavirus pandemic is forcing dramatic changes to daily life and energy use.

Why it matters: From an oil standpoint, the huge cutbacks in travel and economic activity have caused global oil demand to crater by millions of barrels per day.

What they did: Analysts used a tracking tool that collected data from mobile devices reporting throughout the day, calculating the maximum distance moved from the first reported location.

  • Check out the chart above, which reflects a mobility metric for each country based on the median distance across all devices in their sample.

What they found: The data for the U.S. shows how the steep drop in mobility didn't begin until around March 14, "corresponding roughly with the start of widespread school closings and social distancing."

The big picture: It's part of a wider analysis published this week of changes in travel, pollution, supply chains and more.

  • In a separate part of the tracking initiative, they looked at changes in device counts at different airports for March 9–13, relative to Feb. 10–14.
  • "Airports on the West Coast, and California in particular, showed decreases of 50% or more. The decrease in device counts at most other airports ranged from 20% or 40%," they note.

Go deeper: 10 ways coronavirus is changing climate change and energy

Go deeper

10 ways coronavirus is changing energy and climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The novel coronavirus, upending our world as we know it, is also changing how we consume energy and address climate change.

Driving the news: The various impacts are occurring both now and into the future. Most changes don’t bode well for acting on climate change and transitioning to cleaner energy.

Coronavirus could drive down global oil consumption in 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A number of forecasts show global oil consumption dropping this year for the first time since the financial crisis over a decade ago as the coronavirus outbreak prevents travel and stymies other economic activity.

What they're saying: The firm Rystad Energy, in a note yesterday, says it now projects global oil demand to fall by 600,000 barrels per day year-over-year — the world uses roughly 99 million barrels of oil per day — compared to 2019 levels.

Sobering news for the U.S. oil industry

Adapted from Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new report from the Dallas Fed offers a sobering look at how much the oil price collapse and falling demand are going to batter the U.S. industry.

Driving the news: Their survey of oil companies showed that many need oil prices far higher than today's low prices to profitably drill new wells.