Fossil Fuels Aren’t Going Away

Joe biden says everything is fine as the country burns around him
Joe biden says everything is fine as the country burns around him


One of the most beloved fantasies of the “progressive” Left in America and the rest of the world is that we (humanity) can continue to thrive and prosper in a world without fossil fuels. They believe this so firmly and zealously that they actually frame public policy on this fantasy, despite overwhelming evidence that their beliefs are not supported by reality.

Fossil fuels are one of the pillars of modern life, and without them life would be “harsh, brutish and short”. We rely on fossil fuels including coal, petroleum, natural gas, and natural gas liquids for everything we consume, power, transportation and more.

Let’s look at the main applications for fossil fuels and discuss leftist fantasies to replace them.

Energy Consumption by source and sector, 2022

Transportation: Reality

The largest end-use sector is transportation, which uses 37% of all energy production. Over 99% of the energy sources for this sector is fossil fuels: petroleum, natural gas and coal. Less than 1% is provided by so-called “renewable” energy.

Most of the fossil fuel use in the transportation sector is for shipping. Shipping includes trains, planes, tractor-trailer trucks, and seaborne vessels. The table below shows the energy sources used by the transportation sector. Note how NONE of the energy sources are from so-called “renewable” energy.

Consumption by energy source

According to a report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Motor gasoline remains the largest transportation fuel…” The share of natural gas as a transportation fuel increases from under 3% in 2012 to 11% in 2040.

Trains (so beloved of the Left) run on diesel fuel, except for light rail trains which run on fossil-fuel-generated electricity. And while some electricity is generated by “renewable” energy, zero “regular” trains are powered by anything but diesel.

Large commercial ships are powered by diesel fuel. While some experimental ships may hearken back to the past when ships moved by the wind, they are not widely in use nor are they practical.

Aircraft are powered by jet fuel. There is no aircraft in commercial use that is powered by “renewable” energy.

Transportation: Leftist Fantasy

The only transportation application that leftists propose replacing with “renewable” energy is wheeled transportation (cars and trucks) by replacing gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks with electric vehicles (“EV”).

There are only a few problems here. The first is that EVs run on electricity which is stored in batteries. The electricity used to charge these vehicles is mostly generated by coal and natural gas (more on this later). Only a small percentage comes from “renewable” energy.

In my research, I found that, leaving tax incentives aside, purchasing an EV is more expensive than a comparable gas-powered car. While charging it may be marginally less expensive than gas, it is more of a hassle except for charging at home. While charging stations are available, they are not nearly as numerous and accessible as gas stations. I’ve seen someone charging their EV with an extension cord(!) at a gas station.

EVs do not have the range of gasoline powered cars, especially in the cold. That can be a problem if you live in a place that gets cold, like most of the United States.

The batteries in EVs are problematic as well. Cobalt and lithium, two of the primary components are considered to be “rare earth elements” and are mostly mined in third world countries, using toxic chemicals and often child labor to extract from the earth. (Compared to oil and gas development, which respects the environment and employs highly paid adult Americans who pay taxes).

EV batteries are often not designed to be easy to repair, reuse or recycle. The environmental costs of disposing of them are staggering, and it can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to replace the battery in your EV.

Despite all these drawbacks, the Biden administration’s EPA has proposed a new rule that would require 60% of vehicles sold in the U.S to be battery-powered electric cars, going up to 67% by 2032. This rule is intended to regulate gas-powered cars out of existence and to force us all to buy EVs whether we want to or not.

And, interestingly, most of us do not want to buy EVs. Global sales growth for EVs is slowing even as it’s becoming more expensive to charge them. Manufacturers are scaling back their production of EVs due to low demand.

On the whole, electric vehicles are not a realistic replacement for gasoline-powered cars. But don’t tell that to the eco-Left. They don’t want to face this reality.

Industrial Uses: Reality

Next on our list is industrial uses of fossil fuels which accounts for 34% of our fossil fuel use. According to EIA:

“Industry uses fossil fuels and renewable energy sources for:

Heat in industrial processes and space heating in buildings
Boiler fuel to generate steam or hot water for process heating and generating electricity
Feedstocks (raw materials) to make products such as plastics and chemicals
The graphic below shows the distribution of percentage shares of industrial energy consumption:

US Energy Consumption by types of manufacturers

The quote above mentions “renewable” energy sources. Those sources are “…mainly biomass such a pulping liquids (called black liquor) and other residues from papermaking and residues from agriculture, forestry, and lumber milling.” These “renewable” sources account for only a small amount of the total energy sources.

Industrial Uses: Leftist Fantasy

As far as I can tell, the climate cultists do not have any proposed replacements for industrial energy sources.

Residential Uses: Reality

Our beautiful planet (hey, it’s Earth Day!) is uniquely positioned in space to be – on the whole – not too hot or too cold. However, in any given place at any given time, it may require heat or cooling for the interior environment of a space to be comfortable for humans.

Given this fact, it should be no surprise that over half the energy U.S. households consume is for space heating and air conditioning. The residential sector accounts for 16% of our total energy consumption.

Residential Energy Sources

Also according to EIA, “The types and major end uses of energy in the U.S. residential sector include:

Electricity – all types of energy end uses
Natural gas – space and water heating, clothes drying, and cooking
Heating oil – space and water heating
LPG (propane) – space and water heating, clothes drying, and cooking
Kerosene – space heating
Geothermal energy – space cooling and space and water heating
Solar energy – space and water heating and electricity generation
Wood (cord wood and wood pellets) – space and water heating”
Note how the first five listed are completely or mostly provided by fossil fuels or are fossil fuels. Geothermal energy is another natural source of energy. Wood is a dirtier burning fuel than any fossil fuel, and notably absent from this list is wind. Note also how very small the “renewable” portion of the graph above (in green) truly is.

Residential Uses: Leftist Fantasy

According to our reality-challenged friends on the Left, the only sources of energy we should be using for our homes is electricity 100% generated from “renewable” sources, maybe geothermal, solar, and wood.

If you take away natural gas, heating oil, kerosene and LPG, you would have to rely on electric heat (or burning wood) to heat your home, thus increasing demand on an electrical grid already at the breaking point. Electric heat is not as easy to accomplish as natural gas or heating oil (in fact I’ve never been in a house that was electrically heated), and the cost to retrofit the existing housing stock in the U.S. is beyond anyone’s ability to pay.

Let’s face it: the climate cult would rather have us shivering in the dark, burning wood in open fireplaces just like our ancestors did throughout history.

Commercial Uses: Reality

The commercial sector accounts for the remaining 13% of our energy uses, and that is mostly for space heating and is mostly powered by electricity and natural gas.

Commercial Uses: Leftist Fantasy

Again, they want all electricity to be 100% generated by “renewable” energy so we’d have to eliminate the 34% of energy provided by natural gas for this sector.

The Big One – Electricity

More than anything else, electricity powers our modern life. Everything we do, everything we use, with few exceptions, requires electricity. It’s truly difficult to imagine life without it.

Where does electricity come from? Except for naturally occurring electricity like lightning strikes or static electricity, it has to be generated.

EIA on electricity: “Most U.S. and world electricity generation is from electric power plants that use a turbine to drive electricity generators. In a turbine generator, a moving fluid – water, steam, combustion gases, or air – pushes a series of blades mounted on a rotor shaft. The force of the fluid on the blades spins…the rotor shaft of a generator. The generator, in turn, converts the mechanical (kinetic) energy of the rotor to electrical energy. Different types of turbines include steam turbines, combustion (gas) turbines, hydroelectric turbines, and wind turbines.

Steam turbines are used to generate most of the world’s electricity, and they accounted for about 42% of U.S. electricity generation in 2022.”

The table below shows the electricity generators in use in the United States in 2022.

The table below shows the electricity generators in use in the United States in 2022.

This table is very interesting – note how the steam turbines that account for most electricity generation are only 2.3% powered by anything but fossil fuels or nuclear energy! Of further interest is that wind and solar – so beloved of the Left – only account for 13.6% of electricity generation.

In other words, wind and solar are only a small part of the picture, yet the Left wants it to be the complete picture, just as a child wants a unicorn to be a real animal.

Electricity is so important that it literally means the difference between life and death, as is evident in countries that are energy poor where hospitals do not have reliable electrical power and electricity is a luxury, not something taken for granted.

Yet the climate Left is driving our electrical grid toward disaster even as it places more and more demands upon it.

As an editorial in the Wall Street Journal puts it: “…grid regulators and utilities are ramping up warnings. Projections for U.S. electricity demand growth over the next five years have doubled from a year ago. The major culprits: New artificial-intelligence data centers, federally subsidized manufacturing plants, and the government-driven electric vehicle transition.”

To cite one example from the editorial: “PJM Interconnection, which operates the wholesale power market across 13 Midwest and Northeast states, this year doubled its 15-year annual forecast for demand growth. Its projected power demand in the region for 2029 has increased by about 10 gigawatts – about twice as much as New York City uses on a typical day.

Don’t expect the power to come from New York, which is marching toward a power shortage as it shuts down nuclear and fossil-fuel power in favor of wind and solar.”

Rolling blackouts are common in Democrat-run states as energy companies are forced to shift to “renewable” energy and reliable coal and natural-gas electricity generation plants are decommissioned.

Transitioning the electrical grid to support Leftist fantasies would cost billions to support EVs composing 10% (not even 100%) of all cars on the road, when currently they account for less than 2%.

Building the wind and solar infrastructure to ramp “renewable” electricity generation from 14% to 100% would require a vast amount of land, would be very expensive in terms of dollars and carbon emissions to build, and there would be other obstacles as well. Because nobody wants a wind farm or solar panels near them, they have to be built in rural areas. (I think they’re an eyesore). The reflected sunlight from solar panels actually increases temperatures, so there’s that problem as well. And let’s not forget how wind turbines are a real danger to birds.

As the Democrats work to eliminate fossil fuels, electricity price inflation as a real thing that affects everybody. Another recent report in the Wall Street Journal states that “Electric rates remained relatively flat in the seven years before President Biden took office, rising 5%. Thank cheap natural gas. Yet since January 2021 electricity prices have soared 29.4%—about 50% more than overall inflation.

By our calculation, electricity prices have increased 13 times faster under Mr. Biden than across the previous seven years…most of it is a result of the left’s climate agenda, and the price increases will get worse.

Federal regulations, renewable subsidies and state green-energy mandates are forcing fossil-fuel and nuclear plants to retire prematurely. Solar and wind need backup from so-called peaker gas plants, usually at a hefty premium. During power shortages, spot prices can hit $10,000 per megawatt hour compared to $30 to $60 on a normal basis.” [Emphasis mine]

The chart below tells it all…

Average Electricity Prices 2014 - 2024
Source: Wall Street Journal

Because the wind doesn’t always blow or the sun always shine, there is a continuous requirement for fossil-fuel “baseload” capacity. Based on my research, fully replacing that capacity with batteries is impractical, prohibitively expensive, and has all the accompanying negative externalities of batteries.

The Biggest Fantasy

From the official platform of the Democrat Party:

“To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. We will dramatically expand solar and wind energy deployment through community-based and utility-scale systems, including in rural areas. Within five years, we will install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 wind turbines, and turn American ingenuity into American jobs by leveraging federal policy to manufacture renewable energy solutions in America. Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.”

While this platform does not mention fossil fuels specifically, legislation introduced in the Senate in 2017 called for the complete elimination of fossil fuels by 2050: “The bill outlines a timeline for converting the U.S. vehicle fleet to electric, shuttering coal- and gas-burning power plants and making energy efficiency policies more widespread. It lays out plans to retrain workers in dirty energy sectors, such as oil drillers, for new jobs, and support low-income communities of color who have suffered disproportionately from the effects of pollution.”

(The last thing oil and gas workers want is government “retraining”.)

To their credit, Democrats are being open about their goals, which gives us all the opportunity to say “No” by not voting for them, ever.

To highlight just how silly and childish their fantasy is, let’s recap:

Transportation end-uses account for 37% of our energy production, 99% of that is derived from fossil fuels. They have no viable, realistic alternatives except EVs, which require exponentially more electricity demands from an already faltering grid.
Industrial end-uses account for 34% of our energy production, of which only 9% comes from “renewable” energy. They have no proposed alternatives for this sector, to them it doesn’t even exist.
Residential end-uses account for 16% of our energy production and only 5% of that comes from “renewable” energy, excluding electricity. The electricity we use in our homes is only 14% provided by “renewable” energy. Their proposed solutions require more electricity, again from an already faltering grid, at the cost of untold billions of dollars.
Commercial end-uses account for 13% of our energy production and only 2% (13% electricity) comes from “renewable” energy. Transitioning from 2% to 100% would require even more


Democrats are completely disconnected from reality, as I’ve discussed elsewhere. They are so Exactly Wrong on this and many other things, it truly amazes me that there are otherwise intelligent, rational people who vote for them.

As I touched on with electricity, their 100% “renewable” energy fantasies would be so much more expensive than the clean, reliable energy provided by fossil fuels and nuclear. For a party that pretends to care about people lower on the economic ladder, this will seriously adversely impact them and everyone else. From expensive EVs to higher monthly energy bills, none of us would be better off in Democrat fantasy world.

Don’t let them destroy your modern life. Stand for reality. Stand for truth and sane energy policy.


Richard Turnquist

Richard D. Turnquist is a “libertarian minded, socially moderate, unapologetic supporter of the unalienable rights described in the Declaration of Independence, enumerated and protected by the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.” Richard writes articles on limited government, freedom, and the defense of capitalism—along with book reviews and other general topics—at his blog, To Advance Freedom. If you would like to contact Richard, you can do so at his website, on Twitter, or on his Facebook page.


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