Surprising fact of the day:

According to the Financial Times, Saudi Aramco worries more about ridesharing that electric cars. With respect to oil demand, one top official at Aramco said ride-sharing was a more immediate threat than electric cars. I find that surprising.

This statement could be read on multiple levels. An immediate cynical reaction is Aramco is seeking to throw shade on anyone who thinks electric vehicles represent an existential threat to oil companies.

Some cursory investigation shows that ride-sharing companies accounted for around 1% of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2016 link. Notwithstanding the impressive rise of Uber and Lyft, I would guess that most of those VMT appropriated by Uber/Lyft are simply cutting into taxi’s share of the market of mainly urbanites who need convenient transportation. There are other costs to consider too– ridesharing drivers typically cruise the cities looking for fares, so its not at all obvious that ridesharing in its current form is really cutting down on oil demand whatsoever. Maybe when Uber takes its fleet full electric or UberPool becomes the default option. McKinsey claims that the breakeven mileage for a vehicle is 3600 miles per year– it would be fascinating to find out if any Uber power-users are approaching that limit but I doubt it. Sure, Uber and Lyft make it more convenient to live car-free in a city, but probably only marginally so beyond taxis and public transit from ten years ago.

The interesting analysis would be if we can bring together some data on fuel consumption or carbon emissions in a major city along with uber ridership. NYC uber data is available, or we could look at a large city like London where extrinsic shocks (the city banned Uber!) create a natural experiment to measure the effect of ridesharing, but fuel consumption data seems depressingly difficult to come by on a fine enough scale to be interesting.