A Call To Arms: Can This World Survive Without Fossil Fuels?

Posted on Sun 10/20/2019 by


By Ronald Stein ~

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the Courage to change the things I can change; and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

The afore-quoted Serenity Prayer came to mind while I was writing this because it seems applicable to the world’s citizens who are trying to attain the leadership roles in the save the environment movement before understanding the complexities of the energy picture depicted in the book Energy Made Easy and the advantages energy as a whole has provided humanity for the last couple of centuries.

Because developed countries have accomplished much in the last few centuries, they have a responsibility as caretakers for the only planet we live on right now. Understandably, it’s hard to imagine the billions of people in underdeveloped countries who have yet to experience anything like the industrial revolution and who are surviving without any of the advantage’s fossil fuels are providing to the lifestyles of those in developed countries.

Yes, there are billions of people in undeveloped countries who are currently living in the low economy horse and buggy days that developed countries left behind a century ago after the assimilation in the early 1900s of the automobile and airplane into regular societal structure. They have yet to join the industrial revolution, and without oil and natural gas, they may never get that opportunity.

It’s almost impossible to understand that almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. Today, across southern Asia, portions of Europe and parts of Africa and Australia, there are families attempting to live on virtually nothing. As hard as it is to believe it is a truism.

Can anyone comprehend that the homeless in America may be living a better life than 80% of humanity?

Imagine families living in dirt huts with no access to emergency medical care because there is no EMC. Their daily lives are bleak and hopeless. They watch their children, friends and relatives suffer and die early deaths from diseases/conditions that are curable using medicines and treatments brought about by developments using fossil fuel by-products.

With fossil fuels, the few of us in the developed countries can now survive in environments all over the world, even harsh ones like Antarctica. Every year, we fell forests and destroy other natural areas, driving species into smaller areas or into endangerment and some even to extinction, because of our need to build more housing to contain our growing population.

Today, the current world population of 7.7 billion is projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. How many more trees will fall as unnatural selection takes its toll on the planet? Currently, underdeveloped countries, mostly from energy starved countries, are experiencing 11 million child deaths every year, and mainly from preventable causes.

Imagine the future atrocities to humanity for those trying to live in abject poverty if we deny the growing poor the benefits of medicines, heating and countless other developments made possible by fossil fuels, to ever achieve the lifestyle benefits afforded the few in developed countries from all those products we get from fossil fuels.

The Earth has been around 4.5 billion years. While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in earnest only in the 1800s.

For nomadic tribes that ruled over thousands of years, their governmental powers were driven by horses, mules, and camels from the animal kingdom – true horse and buggy economies.

From those horse and buggy days a few centuries ago, those personal and commercial vehicles that did not exist before 1900 are currently estimated at 1.2 billion vehicles on the world’s roads with projections of 2 billion by 2035. By some estimates, the total number of vehicles worldwide could double to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Another thing we take for granted is air flight. My hat’s off to Wilbur and his not so congenial brother Orville. Imagine not being able to fly anywhere in the world today? The airlines that did not exist before 1900, transported more than 4.1 billion passengers in 2017 around the world and projections are 7.8 billion airline passengers by 2036.

In just the last few centuries every developed nation now has a military that consists of planes, ships, tanks, and troops with support structures that need constant transporting around the globe, as well as a multitude of infrastructures and products that provide for a comfortable lifestyle in their homelands.

Developed countries that are wealthier and healthier than underdeveloped countries have become dependent on the more than 6,000 products that are manufactured from petroleum and that includes fuel oils for heating and electricity generation, asphalt and road oil, fertilizers that help agriculture feed billions, and feedstocks for making the chemicals, plastics, and synthetic materials that are in nearly everything we use today.

Interestingly, the primary economic reasons that oil refineries even exist are NOT to manufacture the aviation, diesel, and gasoline fuels for today’s military and transportation industries. From one 42-gallon barrel of oil only about half is for fuels while the rest is used to manufacture the chemicals and by-products that are part of our daily lifestyles. Those billions in underdeveloped countries may not need transportation fuels, but they do need the other ½ of the barrel of oil for the thousands of products that have enhanced the lifestyle of those in developed countries.

As headstrong as the leaders of the new environmental movements are they are equaly ignorant of what “energy” means and the real reason fossil fuels are integral to the success of developed nations and the necessity of those fuels being made available to up and coming nations who want to enjoy the fruits and comforts of modern society.

Ron Stein contributes Posts at the CFACT site. He is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched Principal Technical Services (PTS) in 1995. He writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.

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