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Julian Lee

Fires and Floods Make Saudi Aramco IPO a Hard Sell

Twenty years ago, investors would have tripped over each other to buy the shares. It’s a much tougher sale now.

The backdrop to Saudi Aramco’s IPO isn’t great.

The backdrop to Saudi Aramco’s IPO isn’t great.

Photographer: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

It is a bad time to buy into an oil company whose major asset is reserves in the ground that can sustain current production levels of the carbon-laden fossil fuel until near the end of the century. 

Oil lost its place in the power generation market after the oil shocks of the 1970s, and it is now starting to see serious competition for powering cars, buses and trucks along with the first signs of viable alternatives for fueling maritime transport. Oil’s domination in air transport looks safer for now, and the industry forecasts the strongest growth in petrochemicals that go into everything from plastics and fertilizers to electronic gadgets and clothing. But the tide of history is moving firmly against fossil fuels.