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Crude oil isnít going away soon

By Ronald Stein - posted Wednesday, 10 January 2024

We've become a very materialistic society over the last 200 years, and the world has populated from 1 to 8 billion because of more than 6,000 useful products and different fuels for planes, ships, trucks, cars, military, and the space program made from crude oil that did not exist before the 1800's.

As a refresher for those pursuing net-zero emissions, wind and solar do different things than crude oil.

  • Wind and solar renewables only generate occasional electricity but cannot manufacture anything. The problem with renewable electricity from wind turbines and solar panels is that they don't work most of the time, and thus are unreliable for "just electricity"!
  • Then there is "the nameplate farce" of those renewables. There should be financial penalties for the subsidies and tax credits provided to wind and solar power plants for their inability to deliver at least 90 percent of their permitted nameplate ratings on an ANNUAL basis, like their backup competitors of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants that provide continuous uninterruptable electricity.
  • Of the three fossil fuels, coal and natural gas are used to generate electricity, but the third, crude oil, is virtually never used to generate electricity. However, when crude oil is manufactured into petrochemicals, it is the basis for virtually all the products in our materialistic society that did not exist before the 1800's.

Today's policymakers do not understand that everything that needs electricity is made with petrochemicals manufactured from crude oil, from the light bulb to the refrigerator, iPhone, defibrillator, computer, and communications equipment. Thus, "just electricity" from the so-called green renewables of wind turbines and solar panels are not displacing the need for crude oil.

We should be careful with what we wish for. 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 transportation fuels that are currently made with petrochemicals manufactured from crude oil.


The few wealthy countries of the United States of America, Germany, the UK, and Australia representing about 6 percent of the world's population (515 million vs 8 billion) are mandating social changes to achieve net zero emissions. Those developed countries have come a long way from the zero emissions society that existed before the 1800's when:

  • There were no coal fired power plants before the 1800's.
  • There were no natural gas-powered plants before the 1800's.
  • There were no nuclear power plants before the 1800's.
  • There were no products for heating, cooling, or irrigation to prevent weather related fatalities and injuries before the 1800's.
  • There were no tires or asphalt to support transportation infrastructures.
  • Life expectancy was short, as life longevity was about 40 years of age before the 1800's.
  • When people were born, they seldom traveled more than 100 miles from their birthplace before the 1800's.
  • There was no medical industry before the 1800's.
  • There were no electronics before the 1800's.
  • There were no transportation infrastructures before the 1800's.
  • There were airplanes and thus no airports before the 1800's.
  • There were no cruise ships nor merchant ships, other than sailing vessels before the 1800's.
  • There were no military ships or planes before the 1800's.

Looking beyond the few wealthy countries setting environmental policies for the other 94 percent of the world's population, Nearly Half the World Lives on Less than $5.50 a Day, as billions still struggle to meet basic needs. They may never be able to enjoy the materialistic living styles of those in wealthier countries.

At the recent climate summit gathering in Dubai that attracted more than 70,000 from around the world that enjoy their carbon-intensive lifestyles, as well as more than 600 emission-spewing private jets, the president of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber stated that a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development "unless you want to take the world back into caves", i.e. back to the pre-1800'a as noted above.

Until a crude oil replacement is identified that can support making the more than 6,000 products in today's society, the world cannot do without crude oil that is the basis of our materialistic "products" society.

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This article was first published by the Heartland Institute.

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About the Author

Ronald Stein is co-author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated book Clean Energy Exploitations. He is a policy advisor on energy literacy for the Heartland Institute, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and a national TV commentator on energy & infrastructure with Rick Amato.

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