The Dangerous Delusion of a Global Transition To “Just Electricity”

Eliminating crude oil, before a replacement is in place, would rid the world of planes, airports, ships, medical, social media communications, toilets, and more.

Published October 2, 2023 at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Ronald Stein

Ronald Stein  is an engineer, senior policy advisor on energy literacy for the Heartland Institute and CFACT, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations.”

World leaders continue experiencing a “dangerous delusion” of a global transition to “just electricity” that that they believe will eliminate the use of the crude oil that made society achieve so much in a few centuries.

Crude oil is the basis of our materialistic society as discussed in an education and entertaining 27-minute podcast interview between Ronald Stein and Armando Cavanha in Brazil.

It’s shocking that the public has bought into the current rhetoric “lock, stock, and barrel” to STOP THE USE OF FOSSIL FUELS, which simulates the resurrection of the 1978 mass murder-suicide of religious cult members of the Peoples Temple, led by Jim Jones, Jonestown, Guyana? 

In September 2023 , 45 years after the Jim Jones tragedy in Jonestown, President Biden used his executive power to establish the American Climate Corps, which will employ and train 20,000 young people in the work of climate resilience without fossil fuels.

When this author watches the TV coverage of protesters, both politicians and teenagers, carrying signs to STOP THE USE OF FOSSIL FUELS, what he SEEs on those posters is:


Shockingly, very few parents, teachers, students, politicians, and those in the media, have any clues or understanding about the basis of the products in our daily lives from crude oil!   Energy Literacy at its best!!!

As John Stossel so often said, “give-me-a-break”!

From the proverb “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” tells us that:

  1. you can’t rid the world of crude oil and
  2. continue to enjoy the products and fuels that are currently manufactured from crude oil.

Just a few hundred years ago, before oil, when the world’s population was around just one billion, the world was unspoiled, decarbonized, and dominated by mother nature and the wild animal kingdom. In the 1800’s there were no airports, automobiles, trucks, planes, cruise ships, coal fired power plants, natural gas power plants, electronics, or space programs, as the Beverly Hillbillies had not yet discovered oil!

Fossil fuels make products for humanity and support more bountiful harvests and a measure of food security that allowed time and energy for innovation and the onset of the Industrial Revolution that allowed the world to populate from 1 to 8 billion in 200 years because oil can be manufactured into thousands of usable, life-enhancing and life-saving products.

On the other hand, renewables can only generate occasional electricity, but cannot manufacture anything for humanity, while fossil fuels manufacture everything for humanity.

A couple centuries ago, there were fewer humans competing with the animals due to humanity’s limited ability to survive what mother nature provided. Before oil, life was hard and dirty, with many weather and disease related deaths.

World leaders are not cognizant enough to recognize that there are no plans for the replacement of the products and fuels now manufactured from fossil fuels, which are the basis on every infrastructure segment that are supporting the 8 billion on this planet!

The 3 fossil fuels of crude oil, coal, and natural gas, do different things for society. Crude oil is the only one seldom used to generate electricity as it is primarily used to manufacture fuels and products for society that are the basis of the worldwide economy.

  • Crude oil: primarily used for transportation fuels, road asphalt, aviation fuel, but less than one percent for electricity generation.
  • Coal:  primarily used as fuel to generate electricity, coal also has a myriad of other uses, including in cement production, carbon fibers and foams, medicines, tars, synthetic petroleum-based fuels, and home and commercial heating.
  • Natural Gas:  generate electricity, heating, and industrial uses for production of chemicals, fertilizers, hydrogen, etc. 

Eradicating the world of crude oil usage, without first having a replacement in mind, would be immoral and evil, as extreme shortages of the products now manufactured from fossil fuels will result in billions of fatalities from diseases, malnutrition, and weather-related deaths, and could be a greater threat than climate change to the world’s eight billion population.

This Epoch Times TV 1-minute video about the lack of a backup plan to replace oil is short, educational, and entertaining. The video has already been viewed by more than 834,000 on social media at

By contrast, “transitioning” humanity to just electricity means converting to wind and solar systems that can manufacture none of the vital products now being used by humanity. That will very likely cause the death of BILLIONS of people from diseases, malnutrition, lowered living standards and weather-related disasters, whereas projections of millions of fatalities from “carbon emissions” and climate change are based on computer models that take none of these realities into account.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are great World War I and II historians. They both know there is no substitute for fossil fuel product dominance in the foreseeable future, even on a longer-term horizon. To believe a transition to just electricity from renewables is possible from the products now manufactured from fossil fuels and act accordingly is suicidal for humanity. As former Congressman Don Ritter of Pennsylvania wrote  It’s the real “existential threat.”

Occasional electricity from renewables cannot run modern civilizations households, businesses, hospitals, militaries, space programs, jets, and cruise ships, and no products and fuels that are now based upon crude oil!

The silence is deafening from billionaires like Bill Gates, John Kerry, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, President Biden, and the media that continues to refrain from asking a John Stossel styled “give-me-a-break” question:  Can you imagine our world without jets, airports, merchant ships, cruise liners, militaries, hospitals, social media communications, space programs, and toilets?

Ronald Stein, P.E.
Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure
Energy Literacy website           
Ronald Stein (energy consultant) Wikipedia page

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October 3, 2023 2:19 am

There’s always an alternative to life without fossil fuels.

Live in a cave and eat only what you can catch or dig up.

Clothes, heating, cooling, using fire, metals, processed minerals, beauty products…. well that’s for another day.

Reply to  Eng_Ian
October 3, 2023 2:36 am

Ray Mears ( for non UK folks ) is going to see the demand for his services skyrocket ( and if that offends the anti FF life deniers, don’t worry it is very intentional)

Reply to  186no
October 3, 2023 4:14 am

$200 Pertex shirts, good stuff.

Bryan A
Reply to  Scissor
October 3, 2023 6:42 am

Coal usage should have also mentioned being used for…
Purifying Silica into Silicon for Solar Panels
Purifying FeO2 into Steel to support Wind Turbines
And Oil needed for Light Weight Wind Turbine Blades

Reply to  186no
October 3, 2023 4:50 am

Doesn’t work like that people with guns will hunt all prey animals to extinction, including all feral domestic animals in about 10 years . Then they will use the guns to enslave their neighbours in plantations. Oh Brave New World

Reply to  alastairgray29yahoocom
October 3, 2023 5:22 am

No fossil fuels, no ammunition.

What will happen an awful lot faster is that the planet will be denuded of trees, burned to provide heating and cooking facilities, producing unfiltered toxic fumes injected into the atmosphere, causing any number of respiratory conditions to flourish.

This isn’t fantasy of any type, it’s happening now in developing nations deprived access to fossil fuels by western ‘owned’ international NGO’s like the IMF, World Bank, WHO, UN etc.

Slashing and burning of the world’s rain forest’s by ‘illegal’ loggers isn’t to provide exotic timber for fine western furniture, it’s a commercial response to demand for cheap fuel from local towns, cities and villages with no access to fossil fuels.

Finding a solution to, for example, rapacious palm oil plantations would also be a helpful step toward improving the situation.

Reply to  HotScot
October 3, 2023 8:15 am

Firearms existed hundred of years prior to the use of fossil fuels for power.

Reply to  MarkW
October 3, 2023 9:18 am

Available to a select few, and not 9 billion people.

Leo Smith
Reply to  HotScot
October 4, 2023 12:14 am

Surely scotland hasn’t got that big yet?

Reply to  HotScot
October 4, 2023 6:41 am

The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution as an inalienable right.

Arms have become more lethal, but so are the arms of the thieves and others.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  MarkW
October 4, 2023 8:45 am

The Stone Age did manage flint arrowheads.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  HotScot
October 3, 2023 8:58 am

When I was a teenager we, a couple of friends and I, moved on from weedkiller and sugar to attempting to make gunpowder. Liviving in the country the saltpetre was obtainable, in fact it can be a bit of a problem in old farm building walls.
Charcoal easy enough to get and Sulfur could be bought at a chemist.
One of us managed to burn himself quite badly.
So the technology hasn’t been forgotten. Although making high volumes might be tricky.
We tried one or two other explosives as well.

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
October 3, 2023 9:22 am


From rapidly dwindling trees, or fossil fuels?

Where do we get the sulphur from for 9Bn people?

Leo Smith
Reply to  HotScot
October 4, 2023 12:14 am

Same place as we always have.

Reply to  HotScot
October 4, 2023 6:43 am

CO2 is a great fertilizer
We need more of it, not less, as proven by increased biomass growth in greenhouses

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
October 3, 2023 12:48 pm

Yeah, we started by discovered Iodine crystals, then moved to CO2 cartridge matchhead rockets (1/2 mile range but extremely dangerous) and finally flash powder (potassium perchlorate and aluminum powder).
No serious injuries, we were very stupid but very lucky…

Reply to  HotScot
October 3, 2023 12:36 pm

For a good review of the consequences of no fossil fuels see the 2009 book One Second After by William R. Forstchen which details the effects of an EMP attack on the US. Very well researched. The first casualties are those dependent on modern drugs, like insulin. Followed by starvation and roving barbarians… Ammo lasts for a long time and there is a lot of it.

Reply to  HotScot
October 4, 2023 6:37 am

The appearance of fossil fuels saved what was left of the forests, especially in Europe, which became more and more deforested in the 1700s and 1800s, a major reason for Napoleon to invade Russia, which had plenty of forests for building navy battle ships, and still does

Reply to  186no
October 3, 2023 5:35 am

Interesting that every product on his site is made from/with the necessary use of fossil fuels.

For example, the Swazi Tahr Anorak: Made from a Polyester brushed tricot knit (not mentioned on Mears site, you have to go to the Swazi site for the details).

Leo Smith
Reply to  HotScot
October 4, 2023 12:15 am

Polyesters can be made from wood, wool, etc etc.

old cocky
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 3:12 am

Polyesters can be made from …, wool,

That would Certainly be making a sow’s ear from a silk purse.

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 6:44 am

Except the price would be double or triple, and the world would be deforested

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  186no
October 3, 2023 5:40 am

159£ for an axe?!?!?!

Bryan A
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
October 3, 2023 6:43 am

Heavy Man

Reply to  Eng_Ian
October 3, 2023 3:05 am

The oil industry provides, as well fuels (gasoline, kerosene, diesel etc.), lube oil and grease for bearings to keep wheels of industry and commerce turning. Every drop rom a barrel of oil is used down to the petroleum coke and tar residues. Net zero can only be achieved with everything grinding to halt.

Reply to  cagwsceptic
October 3, 2023 4:25 am

everything grinding to halt.”

Like the tiny brains of AGW stooges. !

Leo Smith
Reply to  cagwsceptic
October 4, 2023 12:19 am

Just because you currently use petroleum for example, lubrication, doesn’t mean you have to. Where do you think you get silicone grease from?

Feedstock replacement is largely a complete red herring. It is not the major problem at all. Off grid energy is. See my post.

October 3, 2023 3:29 am

One update to the products manufactured from crude oil: the US is mostly transportation fuels, but depending on where you are overseas it will be monomers and other building blocks used for the production of plastic products and derivatives. Most people dont comprehend the impact to society without fossil fuels

Tim Gorman
Reply to  ChemEng101
October 3, 2023 4:03 am

I dare John Kerry to come to the Kansas plains, live outside while building a sod house, and then live in the sod house for 1 month. No running water, you have to carry water from a nearby stream or river. No flush toilet, just a hole in the ground. No stove, just a wood fire to cook over with your one iron kettle. All your furniture made from wood, if you can find any on the mostly grass plains. An ox, a plow made of inferior iron, and a hoe.

That’s the future with no fossil fuels. Look around you in your house. Everything, LITERALLY EVERYTHING, in your house is made from or made using fossil fuels. From the studs in your walls to the kitchen countertops, to the ink pen you write with, it all depends on fossil fuel.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
October 3, 2023 4:41 am

As sure as his long face doesn’t fall far from his saddle, self sacrifice is not a part of his vision. It is you who he wants to starve.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Scissor
October 3, 2023 7:22 am

He’s not bright enough to understand that if he denies fossil fuels to the masses there won’t be enough money in the feudal lord’s treasuries to pay for the exploration, drilling, transportation, refining, and end user transportation of the fossil fuels to support him in luxury. He’ll wind up starving with the rest of us.

Most of the elites in this country are pampered narcissists who have never heard of the French Revolution or its consequences to the elite. They *will* find out sooner or later.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Tim Gorman
October 3, 2023 11:53 am

i.e., go long on lampposts and piano wire.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Tim Gorman
October 4, 2023 12:28 am

“EVERYTHING, in your house is made from or made using fossil fuels. From the studs in your walls to the kitchen countertops, to the ink pen you write with, it all depends on fossil fuel.”

But does it need to be? (And my studs are made out of wood)

And the short answer is no, it doesn’t. You are agonising over a non-problem. A straw man. Bioplastics are already in use. Uranium has plenty of energy. We already have a grid and all the technology to distribute it. And opting for a fossil fuel future when fossil fuel itself has a limited future is as dangerous as trying to build it out of windmills and unicorn farts

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 4:10 am

But does it need to be? (And my studs are made out of wood)”

It’s the most economical way. And it’s also a renewable resource!

I’ve made adobe bricks. Not economical on the scale needed today. I’ve tried making a sod hut, never even got the first layer started, I have no idea what skills are needed to do that. Anyway, not economical on the scale needed today. I’ve helped repair part of a rock wall, that didn’t go well either. Again, the skills needed for that are not easily learned without lots of experience of a good teacher. Rock houses would not be economical at scale either.

Other materials like steel and aluminum require fossil fuels to make on an economical basis.

“And the short answer is no, it doesn’t. You are agonising over a non-problem. A straw man. Bioplastics are already in use. Uranium has plenty of energy. “

Malarky! Bioplastics require factories powered by fossil fuel, you can’t just throw stuff on the ground and grow bioplastics. You need a controlled environment – meaning fossil fueled power. Without fossil fuel to power the mining equipment where is the uranium at scale going to come from? What do you do for lubricants? Oil and grease are still the mainstays for that, other alternatives require fossil fueled power to make and are more expensive.

Of course oil in the ground will run out someday. No argument about that. Then we turn to more expensive alternatives. Coal is still abundant, make oil and gas from coal. Or other alternatives.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
October 4, 2023 6:50 am

It’s the most economical way.

That point always seems to get lost in these discussions. Yes, there are often alternatives, but at what cost?

Reply to  ChemEng101
October 3, 2023 4:28 am

Transportation fuels are the backbone of modern life but the U.S. chemical industry is very healthy and competitive because of its tremendous natural gas wealth.

Here’s a good interactive chart of the top 50 U.S. chemical companies.

Reply to  ChemEng101
October 3, 2023 11:04 am

You mean those 6000+ daily use products?

Leo Smith
Reply to  ChemEng101
October 4, 2023 12:22 am

Including sadly you. Replacing oil as a feedstock for chemical synthesising is really a non-problem, akin to a mediaeval peasant saying ‘if we don’t have trees, how are we going to build houses? Make our plough handles? ‘

October 3, 2023 3:32 am

Good – let’s keep making this point because the greenies are clearly in denial. Hopefully it won’t take the long-term unprecedented disastrous dismantling of society for them to realize how essential petroleum is to life as we know it. The current cult-like delusion of all-electric/evil oil isn’t really about fuels, after all…it’s about POWER, and not the energy kind.

Gregory Woods
October 3, 2023 4:14 am

Preaching to the choir…

Barnes Moore
October 3, 2023 5:11 am

This post needs to appear in MSM publications, but that would never be allowed. When commenting in the WSJ, it’s frightening how many people apparently believe that wind turbines, solar panels and batteries will just somehow magically appear and power everything. We live in an incredibly dumbed down world as evidenced by the lunacy that here in the US we may be facing another Biden vs. Trump showdown. While I would vote for Trump in such a scenario, I don’t think he is electable. Neither can string together a coherent message and both are childish and divisive. One big difference is that Trump’s policies were largely good while Biden’s are dangerous and pose national security risks.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Barnes Moore
October 3, 2023 5:57 am

‘While I would vote for Trump in such a scenario, I don’t think he is electable.’

I keep hearing this, probably from people who will vote Democrat no matter who the Republicans nominate.

Whether it’s about climate change, or any other of dozens of Left – Right issues, we’re about to decide the ultimate fate of the US.

Barnes Moore
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
October 3, 2023 6:12 am

Agreed. Actually, I hear it from a number of conservatives who will also vote for Trump in such a scenario. One reason why we think that is because we think people who ordinarily may not vote will come out to vote just so they can vote against Trump. There is a real visceral hatred of him coming from too many people IMO. I hope I am wrong, but also hope neither Trump or Biden are the nominees.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Barnes Moore
October 3, 2023 7:37 am

And I agree that the man (Trump) has his foibles, not the least of which, is that he got himself absolutely rolled by the ‘Deep State’. The ‘good’ news is that he has brought the Left out of hiding to where anyone that isn’t ideologically blind can see the horrible endpoints of their agenda.

While I don’t agree with some of his economic policies, Trump is at least willing to confront the Left head on, and more importantly, has many supporters who have been waiting for a non-squish Republican willing to do so.

Reply to  Barnes Moore
October 3, 2023 8:19 am

The left will demonize any Republican. Most of the myrmidons will believe anything the MSM tells them to believe.

Reply to  MarkW
October 3, 2023 12:54 pm

The MSM has it’s thumb heavily on the reality scale.
Constantly overcharging the willing masses with absolute BS.

Joao Martins
October 3, 2023 5:51 am

Just electricity”, i.e., plain electricity with no strings/garbage attached (as in “what do you want with your bacon and eggs?” — just coffee), would be much cheaper then the current blend with what they call “green electricity”. Econuts are the only nuts able to tell green electrons from common electrons (citation adapted from Leslie White 1949: “Man is the only animal able to distinguish between distilled water and holy water”)

October 3, 2023 6:02 am

First things first….has it been determined if CO2 causes global warming? NO? Never mind….just rush forward and destroy the existing electric power system and spend trillions on an expensive unreliable system. Just F things up!

Kevin Kilty
October 3, 2023 6:08 am

With enough electrical energy and some sources of carbon, from agriculture (which our elites also abhor) a person can make a dizzying array of products but at much higher cost. A lot of chemistry is available in a corona discharge, for instance, or electrochemical cell.

Ponder for moment how much money was earned by someone, not necessarily the innovator, but by others for sure, in developing our current energy infrastructure and formulating some 6,000 products that come from petroleum in some way or another.

The worst of the “just stop oil” set are fraudsters who imagine being able to earn that money all over again when we must abandon what currently works and develop some sort of replacement. That plus other innovations like so-called carbon trading which is just an insurance policy against people figuring out that this transition is too punishing, has the world’s financiers giddy.

These “earnings” are what one would call an opportunity cost.

October 3, 2023 6:30 am

I am praying for a very cold snowy still winter in the northeast. One that will shut down the electric system for a few days or more across the region. It’s a small start but it might knock some sense into the survivors.

October 3, 2023 7:12 am

Coal is just highly compressed old trees.

Leo Smith
Reply to  scvblwxq
October 4, 2023 12:30 am

Well some is, more is highly compressed swamp grasses 🙂

James Snook
October 3, 2023 7:34 am

This was the conclusion of the US Government’s Energy Information Administration in its International Energy Outlook of 2021. Globally, nothing has changed yet the pretence of an energy transition is maintained by Western Governments. Quite unbelievable,

James Snook
Reply to  James Snook
October 3, 2023 7:37 am


Dave Andrews
Reply to  James Snook
October 3, 2023 9:31 am

Even the IEA admit fossil fuels will still be providing around 60% of World energy in 2050.

IEA ‘World Energy Outlook 2022’

October 3, 2023 7:39 am

Back in the 60’s all electric homes were the rage.They advertised how clean and simple they would be. Then people that bought them found out it was expensive to heat the homes, have hot water, and cook with electricity as their utility bill was sky high. Those developments are still around but ‘all electric’ is no longer one of the selling points.

October 3, 2023 8:39 am

Eliminating crude oil would prevent wind turbines being made or indeed working (lots of oil and greases in those gearboxes)
With over 6000 everyday items having oil somewhere in their life cycle, if global oil production ceased tomorrow, the mass of humanity would cease weeks later, albeit apart from a few million who live without oil now (Amazon tribes, African tribes etc)

Mr Ed
October 3, 2023 8:46 am

Nothing going to change till the radicals behind this movement fail. I’ve lived through
several economic crashes starting in the early ’70’s and they all begin with a hit
on energy, and the stage is set on this one. I have pointed this out to several people
and I’m surprised on the lack of insight some people have. I don’t believe or trust anything
that I hear. I hope I’m wrong.

October 3, 2023 9:28 am

Story tip

To be fair, they could give them away free, no one is interested in them or the ongoing cold, financial burden they impose

Dave Fair
Reply to  Energywise
October 3, 2023 12:07 pm

“”… It’s time to shift policy costs from electricity to general taxation so everyone can benefit from greener, cheaper electric heating systems, sooner.”” IOW, hide the higher costs of green policies in the general tax rate instead of letting people learn how much the Leftist policies are costing them each day.

BTW, who is paying the costs of the OVO heat pump electric rate subsidy? It appears OVO wants the general taxpayers to foot the bill as opposed to its other customers covering the cost.

October 3, 2023 9:31 am

It’s long past time to demand the STOP OIL, nut zero and the other climate catastrophists to follow their convictions. If they want world without oil and net zero carbon they must ‘de-carbonize” themselves, as an example to the rest of us. Ask them if they drive and ice vehicle or ride in ones. If so, why haven’t they stopped doing that. Do they own a smart phone? Plenty of fossil fuel went into that. Stop using it. Do they own any plastics? Out with them. No plastic if you want to STOP OIL.  Do you own anything from China? The biggest CO2 producer on the planet. Get rid of it. We also need to label them correctly. They are bullies. They want to force everyone else to do what they won’t do. We need people to attend all these climate meetings and confront them with their hypocrisy.

Reply to  Stevecsd
October 3, 2023 9:52 am

They know they are hypocrites and deceivers and snake oil sellers, but they don’t care – as long as the cash keeps rolling in, ker ching, they’re cool with labels, sticks & stones and all that
The only way the deceit will fail, is if consumers, the masses, refuse to buy into nut zero en mass and start to vote for anti climate alarmism, anti nut zero representatives

Mike Maguire
October 3, 2023 10:04 am

Over 6,000 products that we need are made with petroleum products.
Video of the day: Life without petroleum-based products

Screenshot 2023-10-03 at 11-58-20 Life without petroleum-based products - MarketForum.png
Mike Maguire
Reply to  Mike Maguire
October 3, 2023 10:07 am
Leo Smith
Reply to  Mike Maguire
October 4, 2023 12:33 am

Sure dude, back in the day a lot of things were made out of wood, to the point where Europe pretty much ran out of trees…
To say ‘its done this way today, therefore we will have to do it this way tomorrow’, is the height of delusion.
If you think there is an infinite amount of hydrocarbon fuel under the ground, I have a bridge to sell you…

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 6:35 pm

With all of your ridiculous straw man comments I wonder if perhaps you are a scarecrow in your daytime job?

George V
October 3, 2023 10:16 am

I’m waiting for the argument that oil can be extracted, but just refined into what’s needed for clothing, plastics for medical devices, asphalt for roads, etc. To which we will ask, OK, what will you do with all the gasoline and diesel fuels that are left over?

Reply to  George V
October 3, 2023 2:03 pm

what will you do with all the gasoline and diesel fuels that are left over?

Also, if you remove that part of the profits, how will that impact the costs of all the other oil-based products? And then also add to that the costs of somehow disposing of those fuels?

October 3, 2023 10:30 am

The article above doesn’t stress enough the need for fossil fuels (mostly diesel) to power truck and train transportation. Food doesn’t mysteriously appear in grocery stores by saying “Beam it up, Scotty” but needs to be transported from the farms in diesel-powered trucks or freight trains. Freight trains are more efficient than trucks (per ton-mile transported), but are limited by the availability of rail lines, while there are many more miles of roads that can handle truck traffic than railroads.

But for either trucks or freight trains, the weight of the fuel needed for a range of several hundred miles is a very small fraction of the payload (weight of cargo transported). For a battery-powered truck, the weight of the battery would be a significant fraction of the payload, which would reduce the weight that an electric truck could haul compared to a diesel-powered truck.

The article also references the 1800’s, when there were no cars, trucks, or planes, and about one billion people on earth (as compared to today’s 8 billion). Back then, people traveled either on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages. Horses needed to be fed, and their stables cleaned regularly, and young horses needed to be trained. How many of the “Just Stop Oil” people would want to work in a stable or on a horse ranch?

Horses are not like dogs, which can be trained to only relieve themselves when their owner walks behind with a pooper-scooper and a plastic bag. Horses relieve themselves whenever and wherever they feel the need. If all the cars in a major city were replaced by horses, who would clean up thousands of tons of horse manure from the city streets, which would become disease-infested sewers every time it rains?

It doesnot add up
Reply to  SteveZ56
October 3, 2023 12:21 pm

It was Prof Wilfred Beckermann’s criticism of Limits to Growth where I first encountered the idea that absent oil London would be under a 6ft layer of horseshit – which was plainly what he thought of the Club of Rome.

October 3, 2023 12:05 pm

If we must do without all the products derived from oil, then there will be very few uses for electricity. That would be a good thing since there is, at least presently, no suitable non-oil-based product for insulating electrical wiring available on a commercial scale. The average person having no access to either products made from oil nor electricity would certainly be interesting. Cities would collapse instantly. Only those in rural areas would be able to survive.

Leo Smith
Reply to  jtom
October 4, 2023 12:38 am

Oh dear. Sorry, that is just plain wrong.

Oil is in itself simply old squashed dead organisms. Any organic material is suitable to make hydrocarbon plastics. Even carbon dioxide is suitable.,

You can make insulating material out of dead Greens or your own excrement. Oil merely happens to be cheap and plentiful.

At the moment.

Back in the day Europe was covered in woods of oak , maple, ash…
Until they used it all up building battleships…

October 3, 2023 12:33 pm

Very nice, lots of good information.

October 3, 2023 1:04 pm

Where would medicine be without oil? When those idiots, get injured, or ill, they should be turned away from hospitals, as their treatment would be against their beliefs on the use of oil founded products.

Leo Smith
Reply to  bobpjones
October 4, 2023 12:39 am

Medicine would be fine.

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 6:38 pm

What are trolls made out of? I thought you would know.

Edward Katz
October 3, 2023 6:20 pm

Part of the problem is misinformation in the school system. If most, if not all, science curriculums do a poor job of explaining the past and current benefits of fossil fuels and if too many teachers can’t provide such information themselves, it becomes easier to indoctrinate students about the supposed evils of fossil fuels. So until parents and politicians demand a more balanced program, of studies, students will continue to be fed a one-sided view of climate science.

David Blenkinsop
October 3, 2023 7:03 pm

Great article, very readable!

I just want to mention though, the Beverly Hillbillies didn’t really discover crude oil.

Likely some mighty disappointed 1880’s well digger did that..

Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 12:13 am

Irrespective of any climate issues, fossil fuel is not an infinitely available resource.
Ultimately we will have to learn to live without it, especially as an energy source.
The good news is that as far as energy goes, we have a better source of energy, at least as far as electricity generations goes. Nuclear power has thousands of years of cheap fertile material available.

Renewable energy is of course a complete and utter waste of time and money.

The point I want to make, is that transition to a nuclear-electric society is not going to be some arbitrary ideological choice, but it is going to be driven by sheer necessity.

To further analyse the situation, rather than just throwing up one’s hands and saying ‘it cant be done’ is needful to see the size of the problem facing us.

  1. The very first things to say that in terms of the things we use energy in it’s raw form, for – heating creating and moving – the transition to electricity is perfectly feasible except for ‘free transport’ – that is. transport that cannot be connected to as grid. Cars, boats and aircraft. More on that later. For now, let’s just accept that that is a category that doesn’t transition easily.
  2. Carbon as a reducing agent. The chemical use of raw carbon based fuel as a reducing agent is extremely important in the manufacture of metals, and things like concrete. This is, whilst nothing like as high a use of carbon based fuels as raw energy, still significant. Fortunately it is not strictly necessary to use fossil fuels for this. Although there is a cost and complexity penalty, electrolysis can produce e.g. hydrogen. And hydrogen is a perfectly good reducing agent.
  3. Fossil fuel as a chemical feedstock.This seems to be what this article is all about, but to my mind it is a complete straw man. I am old enough to remember the world before plastic. It was just fine. We used different materials – at that time coal was the primary fossil fuel, and coal and wood based chemistry was what we used to make doorknobs, not oil. Almost any sort of carbon material – even carbon dioxide – can be used to make complex polymers to replace or indeed synthesise the plastics we use today. And the key to this is that carbon used in plastic is not irrevocably turned to carbon dioxide, It is and can be recyclable. And very little fossil fuel is used as a chemical feedstock compared to its use as a primary energy source. It will last far longer as a feedstock than it will as an energy source, and if e.g. a nylon washer goes up from 0.0c to 0.1c per unit, it is not a civilisation destroying event.

What I am trying to say, is that whilst a post fossil world obviously wont be the same, it need not be worse. In many ways in fact it will be better. Nuclear electricity is clean. Uranium is cheap. The reason nuclear power is currently hugely more expensive than e.g. coal is a political reason, not a technological one. And could be changed by legislative action. Whereas e.g. the lack of suitable storage to complement so called renewable energy, is absolutely a technological problem. In that the storage does not exist and cannot be built with any technology we are currently aware of..

You cannot build a technological society on what you hope will work. Only in what at least can work, and additionally, what can work reasonably cheaply, in terms of human man hour and energy input.

And that brings us back to the really thorny problem of a post fossil world, portable energy.

Imagine fighting a war without tanks, aircraft or ships. The enemy who has fuel left, wins.

In some cases, there is a fairly trivial solution. Ships, for example are large enough and heavy enough to carry a fully shielded nuclear reactor that is pretty much fuelled for life.And, given that as fuelled for life reactor has no opportunity cost for sailing fas, could cruise at far higher speeds than today’s container ships. Trains already are largely electric, and in the case of overland transport, could easily replace aircraft with only a small time penalty. Trains and nuclear ships wouldn’t be as fast, but how fast do you need transport to actually be? No one is prepared to fly a supersonic airliner, because it costs to much. If London to New York took 5 days instead of 5 hours, it wouldn’t stop people who really wanted to go. Those that wanted face to face would use zoom.

It would be different, because the cost balance between alternatives would move away from one solution to another, but the actual needs would still be met.

Where we run into really intractable problems, is smaller off grid transport. For sure a certain amount of battery cars and trucks could get people and goods to and from the nearest train station, but what about e.g. a combine harvester, or a tractor drawn plough or other cultivating implement? Could those really be battery powered?

The fact remains that hydrocarbon fuel in an oxygen rich atmosphere, is almost the perfect portable energy source. It’s energy dense enough for aircraft, it’s safe enough for ordinary consumer handling, and a network for its distribution already exists.

Fortunately you can synthesise it. Given access to extremely cheap plentiful nuclear power, it is perfectly possible to make something of the order of diesel or kerosene, or gasoline. Out of pretty much any carbon bearing feedstock – biomass, atmospheric CO2, animal waste – anything. Plus a bit of hydrogen that exists everywhere as water. It wouldn’t be cheap, perhaps 3-5 times the price of the electricity it was made from, for equivalent energy content, but if that’s they only way you are going to get the corn harvest in, well corn and wheat based foods will simply be luxury items. The balance of costs will shift what is cheap, from one product to another.

When I was young a computer running Unix was a years salary, now I can buy one for less than the minimum wage hourly rate. But fuel was very cheap compared to now.

I think my real purpose here is to emphasise that staying with fossil fuel, no matter how attractive it is, will increasingly not be an option, but not for reasons of climate change. It will be a simple matter of economics. The second point is that the more the market and the less the government directs the transition, the faster and smoother it will be, and the better will be the final outcome.

We have a real task to keep government out of technology, and use it solely to remove unnecessary restrictions. And then let the market drive technological change.

A case in point, apparently Bill Gates wants to power his data centres with small nuclear reactors, having realised that renewable energy doesn’t work and is far too expensive. It doesn’t need a government subsidy to make this happen, but a government decree could absolutely stop it.

So please, stop and think before you vote to stay with fossil fuel. That may be as much wishful thinking as those who vote to build windmills… For sure, as with Covid, there is an unfortunate mix of truth and politics, but it is not impossible to disentangle them. We will inevitably have to wean ourselves off it, and pretending that we won’t, or that a bunch of mediaeval windmills are the answer, are equally deluded.

old cocky
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 3:18 am

well corn and wheat based foods will simply be luxury items. 

Corn, wheat and rice are staples for a reason. If they ever become luxury items, we are in a whole world of pain.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  old cocky
October 4, 2023 4:13 am

Even the gruel that was so common among all early peoples was made from cereal grains. Think oatmeal.

old cocky
Reply to  Tim Gorman
October 4, 2023 2:51 pm

There was quite a lot of barley used in Europe as well, and millet in Africa.

October 4, 2023 6:01 am

The goal used to be cheap energy….what happened?

Consumers want and will buy cheap energy whatever the source. The current Green Regime’s program is all about assuring cheap energy doesn’t happen.. fossil fuel and renewable inputs. In the old days, if America’s corporations, liberal elite and the top 1/3 or Americans were not flush with money, there would be a consumer revolt. Anything that burdened them financially would die a quick death.. The crappy and/or expensive renewal/EV tech would simply not sell and politicians who supported tax boondoggles to promote the green regime would be out of office quick.

But the majority of American’s are not flux with cash!

The fact that 2/3’s American’s are not flush with cash (our Federal Government is in historic debt) means something has gone terribly wrong with our consumer markets and political system. What happened to the representative power of our Americans? Are American’s so happy living the distracted life on the phone that they don’t care? I hope not. If they don’t care it’s because they have been hooked by the fear mongering/mind control and convinced someone will ultimately take care of them. This is a false hope.

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