Batteries included: the Tesla Gigafactory under construction in Nevada, November 2014
James Glover II / Courtesy Reuters

The plunge in oil prices that began in mid-2014 has been relentless. It has pushed a clutch of oil-exporting nations into deficit spending, hobbled Russia’s ambitions, and altered the calculus behind Iran’s nuclear program. It has also given an opportune boost to the U.S. economy and other petroleum-consuming countries. No other force on earth packs such latent capacity to move events. Apart from one, that is: batteries.

When it comes to energy, new technologies can upend the status quo almost overnight, surprising everyone. And just as the shale revolution, unleashed by fracking, has largely triggered the current oil upheaval, batteries could roil geopolitics and business. Renewable power has long been held back by the problem of electricity storage, because the hours when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing do not necessarily match the hours when people use electricity most. The key to unlocking renewables’

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