Big Oil, Electric SUVs, Trucks Cars, and Wind Turbines
FRED IRWIN – Why do the Big Oil companies openly support the switch to electric SUVs, trucks and cars and to wind turbines? How are these odd bedfellows misleading the general public?
In the blink of an eye Big Oil has now embraced the idea of drivers pulling up to a fast food window for a hamburger, fries, and pop in an electric SUV. Or coasting in with a pick-up truck which accelerates to 100 kph faster than a Formula One race car? This will be perfectly acceptable, because they claim to have developed carbon capture technology which reduces GHG emissions (presumably as you drive). Never mind that this proposed technology has never worked at a commercial level. Yet, now Big Oil claims to be a defender of the environment!
What is wrong with this picture? The global fleet of vehicles providing personal transportation is becoming more numerous and getting heavier, and not just in North America. Most new vehicle sales are now SUVs, vans, and trucks not cars. Has Big Oil discovered a new magical source of energy? It takes more fossil fuels to manufacture these heavier vehicles than the lighter ones they replace. Producing an electric vehicle consumes even more. Both demand more energy to operate because of the added weight. Newton’s Law still holds: it takes energy to move mass. The energy transition to electric vehicles thus leads to an important question. Is there any chance that the global move to electric vehicles has any chance of reducing GHG emissions between now and 2050?
Big Oil the UN, and National Governments are all complicit.
Let’s get real! BIG OIL supports electric SUVs, trucks, cars, and commercial wind because it is good for their business. It will generate higher prices and greater profits for oil and natural gas at least through to 2050. Why? Because it takes much more fossil fuel energy to build out the global fleet with electric SUVs, trucks and cars than it would to continue replacing them all with fossil fuel vehicles. Plus, fossil fuel cars can’t realistically be phased out entirely until ten years after new car production phases out, around 2035 for cars, trucks even later.
Let’s get real! The United Nations-led focus by the IPCC has allowed their financiers, including the G20 Nations and Big Oil, to green-wash sustainable development goals. Thereby they provide cover for rising GHG emissions. However, three of the big four leading global GHG polluting nations namely China, Russia, and India have already announced that they will not achieve net-zero GHG emissions until 2060 or beyond. Meanwhile, the USA fosters the illusion that it can grow its economy, support Big Oil, and reduce GHG emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Let’s get real ! National governments everywhere are committed to economic growth. It is considered essential to ensure high employment, and thus, win elections. Electric vehicles and wind turbines can fuel that growth as part of the promise of hi tech to eventually solve the GHG emissions problem caused by fossil fuels.
Let’s get real! Hi tech will not lead to energy descent. Consider tele-communications. 5G takes more energy than 4G; 6G and 7G even more. And the beat goes on. Artificial Intelligence will consume enormous amounts of energy. (Not to mention that there is little democratic control over how it is used.) Eventually, the cost of its energy will have to be priced into its usage. The internet is currently facing the same challenge. And, by the way, there is no such thing as free shipping!
Carbon capture technology tied into the reduction of GHG emissions is at best still at the-proof-of-concept phase, as of yet with little chance of full commercialization. Why not reduce GHG emissions through photosynthesis? How about re-greening the acreage now used for grazing beef cattle? Continue planting trees. After so many years of tracking rising global GHG emissions, which fell, tellingly, only during the Covid recession, you have to wonder why real solutions receive so little support.
An enormous amount of energy, mostly from fossil fuels, goes into building a single commercial wind turbine. This technology then generates electric power only intermittently. Here you begin to appreciate the very low return on energy generated by commercial wind turbines and why Big Oil supports them with open arms.
None of this means that we should try to stop the shift to electric SUVs , trucks, and cars, or building commercial wind turbines for higher return applications. What it does mean is that we have to get a lot smarter on a local basis. We need to be a lot more selective very quickly about how we spend our resources. The strategy has two prongs: (i) emissions reduction and (ii) adaptation to the climate/energy emergency of energy descent.
We can increase their impact, if we get on with creating and celebrating projects that lead to energy descent at the local community level.
That requires reducing our collective community reliance on all forms of energy. It means switching that lower energy requirement to locally produced renewable energy, yes, including small scale wind where it is viable.
Municipalities such as Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, where I live, have the collective wealth to move the community to much greater resilience and greater social and economic equity. What is lacking is understanding the leadership and actionable structure required to deal with the climate/energy emergency. Also missing is the financial expertise it will take to mobilize its own citizens to re-invest in their own community for their own benefit.
Further, what doesn’t seem to be clear, at least in Peterborough, Ontario Canada, is that the public have to lead local municipal governments to do the right things. The public has to insist on their governments getting priorities straight and to focus on what needs to be done. It is no longer (nor was it ever) simply a matter of lessening GHG emissions, but rather reducing community energy consumption. This must be recognized as the Number 1 priority to combat the climate/energy emergency now enveloping us.
Let’s get real! This is no easy task, but it can be done!
“In some respects the energy transition (away from fossil fuels) is analogous to redesigning and rebuilding an airplane while it’s in flight”Richard Heinberg 2023
It has to be done.