Banning Oil Is a Bad Idea

Another highly unpopular opinion: Banning gas vehicles is a really bad idea.

California just passed rules that will ban the sale of new gas vehicles entirely by 2035 with a phase in period starting in 2026. Washington state, Oregon, and New York are all adopting the rule.

I know that there are very serious concerns about the impact of internal combustion engines on the environment. However, there is simply no viable replacement for these yet.

Let’s go back 200 years to just before the start of the Industrial Revolution. Most humans lived in various forms of slavery… most people simply did not have a choice of where to work or what they did. These slaves had all sorts of different names: serf, peasant, peon, vassal, bond servant, or simply just slave. When the Industrial Revolution came, most of these slaves were set free by the steam engines and later the internal combustion engines that could do the work these slaves were forced to do. Before oil, 80% of the population HAD to work in agriculture to survive. Today only 2% still do.

Oil and it’s byproducts provide us almost everything we need to survive: fertilizer to grow food, energy for transportation, create the electricity to power electric cars, plastics for building those cars, and almost everything else around you wherever you are sitting.

All military power in today’s world is based on oil. I spent a ton of time studying World War 2, and the Allies did not win the war at Normandy… we launched D-day when the Russians were already inside of German territory and the German armies were in full retreat. The war was won in Moscow when the elite German armies simply ran out of fuel. The best trained and best armed military in the world was rendered useless because it simply could not move.

The security of modern democracies depends on strong militaries to face the threats from dictatorships in Russia and China. Russia and China pay lip service to the environment, but look at pictures or independent reports on pollution in their cities to see that they have no real restrictions. If our militaries don’t have ready access to oil (requiring tons of oil exploration and refineries backed by large free economies), our militaries are totally useless to protect us. If they can’t protect us, then the environment loses anyways when we lose to a dictator.

Most disasters – pandemics, nuclear war, solar flares, hurricanes, wildfire, etc. can be mitigated if we access to internal combustion engines and fuel for them. But we now only have 130 refineries left in the United States and the last new refinery was built in 1977. These refineries are operating at nearly 100% of their capacity, and that still is not enough. We are seeing huge inflation in part because we have strangled our oil industry. Why would anyone invest in new oil exploration or refineries if they know that in a few years it will just be banned? Our ability to respond to disasters becomes extremely brittle without robust fuel and engines.

The technologies we are supposed to replace oil with are in many ways worse for the environment… Solar and wind are intermittent and will require grid scale batteries that simply don’t even theoretically exist. And lithium ion (the best we have) batteries for our cars actually are extremely damaging to the environment in their production and use. Let’s make sure that we are not creating a worse problem by trying to solve a problem we already know.

Lithium batteries cannot even theoretically reasonably power a commercial airliner, heavy ship, or other heavy equipment. It is extremely inefficient for farming use in tractors. It cannot be used for rockets… SpaceX’s Merlin rocket engines use kerosene. Our very best batteries right now contain only 1/100 the energy density of gasoline.

Everything we need to survive including safety, food, and shelter, as well as almost everything we want to make life good depends on a strong and cheap supply of oil.

Nuclear is the only technology that theoretically could replace oil, but we have regulated it to death out of misplaced fear.

I hate oil dictators and oil fatcats more than most people I know… but we need oil and having politicians pretend we can just ban it is going to lead to some extremely bad outcomes.

Published by

Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.