Whilst mankind’s present effect on CO2 levels is deemed sufficient justification for stopping the use of hydrocarbon fuels, the broader question of the effects of giving up on hydrocarbon fuels and, importantly, finding alternatives has yet to be discussed. As the deadline approaches for the abolition of fossil fuels, including hydrocarbons like oil, petrol and diesel in vehicles, gas for domestic heating boilers and, most likely, for power stations too, what will life without fossil fuels post 2030, the government deemed deadline, be like?
In this article I consider some of the practical and real life concerns that should be considered such as the impact on personal and industrial transport; EV batteries; mineral excavation; use of petroleum products; pharmaceutical dependence on the petro-chemical industry; energy demand and, of course, national security.
Our transportation system relies heavily on road vehicles. They are the life blood of our nation transporting the majority of our food, clothing, building materials, people and much more.
Yet all hydrocarbon powered vehicles will eventually be replaced with electric vehicles at some time after the ban on internal combustion engines comes into effect in 2030. This is the New Green Deal the government promotes
We know electric cars and lorries are presently expensive. To make them appear more attractive to consumers, their purchase prices have been reduced by huge government subsidies1. For example, subsidies were previously available for cars costing up to £50000 and Tesla cars received huge subsidies from the UK Government.
Only in December 2021 did the government reduce its subsidy of electric vehicles to £1500 for EV’s costing less than £32000 including VAT and delivery charges.
Though those subsidies have now been removed completely, it was very much a question of the less well-off aying through those tax subsidies wealthy purchasers to buy such cars.
Whilst volume production will hopefully reduce costs for the ordinary citizen subsidies will eventually be removed for the public when there is no option but to buy EV’s. For we should note Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) will no longer be allowed to be made from 2030 – a mere eight years away.
It is inconceivable that most people will be able to afford to buy new electric cars at their present prices so what of the second hand market?
Present battery technology suggests EV batteries will last between about eight and twelve years. Therefore, buying a second hand EV much over five years old has the potential to cost the new owner for a replacement battery pack. Electric vehicle battery packs cannot be easily or cost effectively replaced with present battery replacement costs have been estimated to be around £9,000 or more with fitting costs on top of that2.
A recent case published on Leicestershire Live3 cited a motorist who has bought a second hand hybrid car for £27,000 and the battery failed and needed to be replaced at only eight years old. The new battery pack was said to be £15,000 and fitting costs were £200/hour. Such costs would cripple most people and drive them off the road.
Such substantial costs would mean it is it likely we will all be paying more for the privilege of personal mobility. What effect will this have on a presently mobile workforce?
What effect will it have on second hand sales or increased car scrappage fees and therefore on the environment? We know the batteries cannot presently be recycled, or at least, not recycled into more EV batteries?
There is also talk in Government circles to remove personal transport as an option. What effect will that have on individual freedom and equality? How will that affect those living and working in rural areas, or those who need to travel to work?
If we move to fully electric vehicles, are there sufficient resources on the planet to provide everyone with batteries for their electric vehicles?
Lithium, nickel and cobalt are key minerals used in the manufacture of EV batteries. Resources, whose extraction by quarrying and mining, are already causing damage to our environment. In Serbia, Rio Tinto is trying to extract Lithium, which would potentially destroy a huge area of natural beauty in a $2.3 billion dollar deal.
China’s Tianqi Lithium controls nearly half the world’s production of Lithium, owning a 51% stake in the Greenbushes mine in Western Australia. This one mine will produce over 160,000 tonnes of Lithium per year and is the biggest operating Lithium mine in the world.
Lithium is also mined in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as others. So we destroy the planet to save the planet. Moreover, the human tragedy that goes largely unreported is the use of child slave labour in mining these toxic elements.
Once the existing internal combustion engines have reached the end of their lives, how will we mine those essential natural resources, like lithium, nickel, and cobalt, required for batteries (and many other minerals) from the ground? Much of the mining and quarrying is done by way of large Diesel powered machinery. The energy required from battery operated earth moving equipment is phenomenal and currently impractical. Even though companies like JCB have successfully developed engines that can run on Hydrogen, the obstacle for them is the ban on production of new internal combustion engines.
Many items in modern life are made from plastics. Many plastic components are found in electric vehicles. Plastics are produced in the oil refining/petro-chemical industry. If we turn our back on hydrocarbon production, will we still be able to manufacture plastics? Without the extremely valuable fuel elements, would the business of refining oil into plastics be cost effective? If not, then what materials will we use once plastics are no longer available?
Some 70% or so of refinery output lies in petrol, diesel and aviation spirit. Once the demand for fuels starts to fall away, prices will likely hit astronomical levels and will be afforded only by the very wealthy. Eventually the refineries will cease to be profitable and will close. There are presently only four refineries remaining in the England. Many having closed already.
As well as plastics, the petro-chemical industry produces many feeder stocks for the pharmaceutical industry. Many oil based chemicals assist in the production of anti-biotics, hand sanitisers and other medicines. Will the closure of our petro-chemical industry be a reality once our use of hydro-carbon fuels falls away? What will happen to the pharmaceuticals we presently take for granted?
Once refineries are closed, there will be no bitumen for road surfacing or repairs and no Calor Gas for those who use it in their homes. How will our international trade continue? There will be no more residual fuel oil or diesel fuels for maritime transport. Is it likely that overseas trade will potentially be affected to a level not seen by anyone alive, because if ships cannot refuel on arrival, they will be unable to dock here. At the very least, this would make us dependent upon other nations for maritime fuels.
Another red flag is that there will cease to be hydrocarbon fuel for power stations, who may need a quick boost, or may rely of fuels in prolonged periods of calm, such as when our renewables are stationary. We have seen that recently when prior to Christmas 2021 there was not enough wind to drive the wind farms and the price of gas shot up to punitive levels.
Presently, wind produced electricity makes up around 21% of our present needs. Natural gas is produced from or is a product of the oil industry. Most of our gas is imported and is used in power stations for the production of electricity. What will replace it? What is our programme for building more nuclear power stations?
The government recently U-turned on banning domestic gas central heating, but power stations burn a tremendous quantity of gas and that gas produces CO2 as a product of combustion. Gas fired power stations emit a lot of CO2. Is the government planning on decommissioning our power stations by 2050? Why has there been no public discussion on such a fundamental point that clearly affects us all. We have been told of plans to ban gas boilers in people’s homes, so what of power stations?
It would also appear from news reports that CO2 capture is possible. If carbon dioxide can be removed with relative ease, why has there been no move to consider the development of capture of CO2 from power station flue gas?
It would seem that if this technology of CO2 capture is possible, then why are we burning natural gas at such a tremendous rate, when the same technology could be used to capture carbon emissions from power stations fired by coal? The fundamental difference is, that while known oil and gas reserves can likely be measured in decades, coal reserves at the present usage rate amount to around 400 years! That is more than enough time to allow mankind to develop other forms of power generation. We are led to believe that power by nuclear fusion, as opposed to fission, is ‘just around the corner,’ yet we hear nothing of it.
The Green Agenda supporters point to offshore wind farms as a major source of electricity in the future, yet they presently only have a lifespan of around 25 years. They require extensive efforts during their installation which are provided by diesel oil burning ships that will no longer be available at end of life and new engines are banned from manufacture.
What designs are in place to erect the next generation wind farms? What of the maintenance teams who are ferried by boat or helicopter to carry out routine and breakdown maintenance? What of the large quantities of oils needed to allow the wind turbines to operate – oils for lubrication of gearing and for the hydraulic operation of blade pitch control?
Once our nation is fully electric, what will be the extra capacity required from the grid to charge EV’s overnight, when the demand for electricity will be significantly greater than it is now?
Can the present grid cabling and transformers handle the likely extra demand? These unglamorous under and over ground necessities of life in Britain are yet another practical consideration we don’t hear much about.
What about the very large number of people without off street parking? How will they be able to recharge overnight?
Most of our energy suppliers are foreign owned, not only will costs rise, but extra profits will not necessarily be invested in Britain.
The government currently receives revenue and VAT on motor fuel, estimated to be in the region of £43Billion per year. That revenue will need to be raised by other means, once internal combustion engines have ceased to operate on our roads.
From May 2022, all new domestic charging points will be required to have a smart function and will enable the amount of electricity used specifically for EV’s to be measured. Whilst there is, as yet, no mention of tax on EV fuel, once the government is able to measure what you use, they are then able to tax it.
What about flying and holidays? Where in the scheme of things are the design plans for electrically propelled passenger aircraft? Will we be expected to have staycations and only the well off will be able to enjoy overseas holidays, by whatever method of transport becomes available?
Farming is central to our ability to produce food. Presently, all farming equipment, both for ground works, sowing and harvesting is performed by machinery powered by Diesel engines. How will such work be undertaken when there are no new internal combustion engines, to replace worn out machinery? Whilst plant based chemicals are being developed and which may help with our chemical industry, land used for those products will reduce land available for food produce.
How will our armed forces conduct potentially large scale operations without a readily available fuel source, which would still be on tap to the rest of the world for at least 15 years? Consider the Falkland Islands under threat from Argentina. Would we be in a position to mobilise to protect our interests with only electric vehicles? Russia threat and rising fuel bills has shown what happens when we lose significant hydrocarbon fuel resources.
Our airspace is presently continually being tested by the Russian Air Force. What will be our capacity for defence of our land when we are unable to use diesel power both for fighting machines and logistics?
There is also another small snag. Even though we have left the EU, we are legally bound to follow their environmental policy. That is hard wired into the Withdrawal Agreement. Regrettably, we are stuck with it, unless or until the EU decides to change course in the light of new technological development, or unless our government decide to take the bold step of rescinding that agreement in its entirety. The best our government can do is to delay the production ban on internal combustion engines until 2050 and hope for a pragmatic solution.
Once our dependency on hydrocarbon fuels has gone, we will be significantly ahead of the rest of the world. The EU’s ban on new production of IC engines takes effect ten years after ours, in 2040. The rest of the world (that has signed up to the protocol) retains IC engine production until 2050.
Clearly, our government is striving for the UK to be carbon neutral by 2050, a goal that necessarily brings its own challenges, but we have the science to develop our way through those challenges. However, whilst many technological advances are in development or have been achieved already, there is a question that remains to be asked. What will be the effect on people’s lives?
Figures taken from Carbon Independent claim that 26 million tonnes of CO2 is released into the atmosphere per year by all motor vehicles on the planet. This is clearly a worryingly large number.
World population has increased from 3.682 billion people in 1970, to 6.114 billion people in year 2000 and presently stands, in 2022 at 7.9 billion people. The population had increased by 66% in the thirty years from 1970 to 2000 and has more than doubled in the 50 years since 1970. ]
This in itself is a worrying trend. However, each human breathes out CO2 at an average rate of 2.3Lb per day or 1.0442kg/day. Therefore, world population is breathing out an average of 8.25 million tonnes of CO2 per day, or over 3000 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Against the 26 million tonnes released by vehicles, it would seem that the population poses a greater risk to the planet just from breathing than from vehicle emissions.
Whilst not strictly within the remit of this article, I can’t help but wonder about how nature balances itself. We know the atmosphere is composed largely of Nitrogen: 78% and 21% is oxygen, leaving only 1% for all the other gasses, of which CO2 is only one. In order to maintain this balance, with an increasing level of CO2, the other gasses must also be increasing. If that is not the case, then the gasses are changing in proportion. This throws up two questions:
If we are looking at a proportional change, how long will it take for our atmosphere to be incapable of sustaining life and, if the atmospheric gasses remain in proportion, then at what rate is our atmosphere growing?
Atmospheric growth must also affect the weather systems and hence climate. The only difference between the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter is the distance light (and heat) has to travel through our atmosphere in order to reach us. If our atmosphere is growing, the distance is also growing.
Therefore, giving up on fossil fuels alone will, ultimately, not save us. Whether we as a species are intelligent enough to manage our growth and better still reduce back to eg a 1970 level of world population, remains to be seen.
I don’t pretend to know any answers or even whether these questions are already being dealt with at government level. What does strike me as odd, is that a mere eight years away from the point of no return, when internal combustion engine manufacture in the UK will be banned from 2030, there is no great fanfare from Government, scientists or industry to allay our fears and let us know that everything will be fine!
In the meantime, with a surge towards electrification, reliance on foreign energy suppliers, high energy prices, power stations due for closure on safety grounds and an ever increasing population, one wonders just how long the lights will stay on!
This article is also published on LIBERTATIO Substack page here