Ridding the world of fossil fuels will drive humanity back to medieval times


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“We are going to get rid of fossil fuels” said President Biden.

For the first time since Harry Truman was president 70 years ago, America recently had more energy exports than imports. Now, under the Biden climate plan, America will be discouraging U.S. energy independence, starting with suspending Federal Oil and Gas Permits, encouraging the shuttering, and halting of further fracking efforts in America, and the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Under Biden’s plan to rid American lifestyles and economies of fossil fuels, such a plan would ground the military, space program, and Air Force 1. It would also mothball the huge energy demands of airlines, cruise ships and merchant ships, as well as eliminate the medical industry, electronics industry, and the communications industry that are totally reliant on the products made from petroleum derivatives.

Getting-off-fossil fuels would reverse much of the progress made over the last few centuries. The inventions of the automobile, airplane, and the use of petroleum in the early 1900’s led us into the Industrial Revolution and victories in World Wars I and II. The healthier and wealthier countries of today now have more than 6,000 products that did not exist a few hundred years ago, all manufactured from petroleum derivatives.

Over the last couple of centuries, the prosperity in the wealthier and healthier countries of using fossil fuels has reduced infant mortality, extended longevity from 40+ to more than 80+, allowed us to move to anywhere in the world via planes, trains, ships, and vehicles, and virtually eliminating weather related fatalities.

Without fossil fuels we can easily see today, just by observing world’s poorest countries, what lifestyles are like without the thousands of products from oil derivatives, where there are 11 million children in the world dying every year. Those fatalities are from the preventable causes of diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth as many developing countries have no, or minimal, access to those products from oil derivatives enjoyed by the wealthy and healthy countries.

A complex trade-off associated with policy choices of moving too quickly into intermittent electricity from wind and solar is that abandoning fossil fuels will further deprive and/or delay from providing at least 80 percent of humanity, or more than 6 billion in this world living on less  than $10 a day, from enjoying the same products that benefit the wealthy and healthy countries.

How dare we, in the healthier and wealthier countries, insist that we should limit poor countries future access to fossil fuels? Cheap, reliable, accessible power, and products from fossil fuels are lifesaving, and one of the best ways out of poverty.

If high school dropout Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist on climate change, diagnosed with Asperger’s, high-functioning autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and her followers did their homework instead of ranting about climate change, they would possibly have learned that those developing countries yet to join the industrial revolution are missing out on several great things fossil fuels have done for humanity. Sunsetting fossil fuels use would negatively impact modern medicine, agriculture, longevity, and our ability to face natural weather disasters.

Continuous worldwide development is exponentially increasing for medical devices and medications supplies to support the health and longevity of people as well as pursuance of continued development of electronics and communication equipment to further support “virtual” working and educational opportunities.

Renewables have a role in usage of intermittent electricity, but we need to consider what they can do, and what they cannot do. Science shows that wind and solar can generate intermittent electricity under favorable weather conditions, but science also shows us that wind and solar cannot manufacture the oil derivatives that are the basis of those thousands of products we now take for granted.

Electricity by itself cannot support the military, medical industry, airlines, cruise ships, supertankers, container shipping, trucking infrastructures, and space program. Those thousands of products we did not have before 1900 are made from petroleum derivatives. Nor can electricity alone manufacture any of the military equipment: aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers, submarines, planes, tanks and armor, trucks, troop carriers, weaponry, and the communications and telemetry equipment.

We may be able to get along with less usage of the various transportation infrastructures, but the health and well-being of societies for life longevity and the ability to live in almost any weather condition is directly related to their access to the supply of all those products from petroleum derivatives for medications and medical equipment, and all the electronic and communications tools now being used worldwide.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was almost like living in the 1800’s with virtually no transportation systems and minimal need for the fuels made from oil, BUT and that’s a BIG BUT, we were able to survive the quarantine as we benefited from all those products derived from the derivatives from oil that produced all the critical medical equipment like ultrasound systems, mechanical ventilators, exhalation valves, inhalation valves, CT systems, X-ray, medicines, masks, gloves, soap and hand sanitizers for hospitals, and protective gowns, gloves and face shields gear for doctors and nurses. All those products begin from crude oil, or as the Wall Street Journal states – “Big Oil to the Coronavirus Rescue.” Vaccines need refrigeration, and refrigeration need electricity, especially in the hospital sector where redundant generation capacity is a mandate.

Post 1900, the healthier and wealthier countries that benefit with longevity of more than 80+, now have medications, electronics, cosmetics, plastics, fertilizers, transportation infrastructures and more than 6,000 products that come from the derivatives of crude oil, as well as the various fuels to operate the military, planes, trucks, construction equipment, merchant ships, and cruise ships on this increasingly resource-stretched and crowded earth.

  • Ron Stein is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched PTS Advance in 1995. He is an author, engineer, and energy expert who writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.

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