Citi’s ‘peak oil demand’ proponent swaps Wall St for renewables

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One of the world’s top energy analysts who predicted a looming peak in oil demand is putting his money where his mouth is: quitting his Wall Street job to work in the renewables industry.

Seth Kleinman, global head of energy strategy at Citigroup, said he is stepping down to become the clean energy director of a non-profit that helps kickstart businesses in Costa Rica.

“Renewables are quickly encroaching on demand growth for oil,” said Mr Kleinman. “Now is a good time to go, I’ve been talking about it for years. I was an early proponent of the peak oil demand theory.”

The prospect of “peak demand” for oil has found a growing chorus of supporters among some analysts and energy companies that believe an end to growth in global consumption could come by 2040 if governments aggressively pursue targets for lowering emissions.

Others, from the International Energy Agency to the Saudi Arabian government, have questioned this assumption, saying growth in emerging markets will see oil demand rise even if developed economies curb consumption, with global demand predicted to top 100m barrels per day by the end of this decade.

Ed Morse, Citigroup’s global head of commodities and former US government energy adviser, said in an internal note seen by the Financial Times the move into a “strikingly different” area was unsurprising given Mr Kleinman’s “growing near-obsession” with renewables in recent years.

“[This] is a driver of his analysis of peak oil demand, a subject that he has been one of the first to recognize and take seriously as something that will likely unfold quite visibly over the next decade,” he said.

Mr Kleinman started his career as a market analyst at consultancy PFC Energy in Washington DC, before moving into physical and proprietary trading at Hess Energy Trading Company in New York.

He later went to Morgan Stanley to be an analyst in their global oil research team and served as Glencore’s global head of oil analysis, based in London prior to joining Citigroup in 2011.

Starting at Costa Rica-based ParqueTec in July, Mr Kleinman’s said he will be looking to parlay his interest in renewables with his experience in banking, acting as a bridge between the two sectors.

He said banks and financial institutions are struggling to find suitable companies in which to deploy funds earmarked for green investments. His initial project will be to arrange financing for solar developer Sibo Energy.

“We are trying to facilitate the financing of the clean energy revolution,” said Mr Kleinman.

“As far as I’m concerned the end is nigh for oil.”

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