One Little Problem with the “All-Electric” Auto Fleet: What Do We Do with all the “Waste” Gasoline?
One Little Problem with the “All-Electric” Auto Fleet: What Do We Do with all the “Waste” Gasoline? by Charles Hugh Smith for Of Two Minds
Regardless of what happens with vaccines and Covid-19, debt and energy–inextricably bound as debt funds consumption– will destabilize the global economy in a self-reinforcing feedback.
Back in the early days of the oil industry (1880s and 1890s), the product that the industry could sell at a profit was kerosene for lighting and heating. Since there was no automobile industry yet, gasoline was a waste product that was dumped into streams.
Why couldn’t the refiners produce only kerosene? Why did they end up with “worthless” gasoline?
The answer is a barrel of oil produces a variety of products. While there is some “wiggle room” to produce more diesel and less gasoline, etc., it isn’t possible to turn a barrel of oil into only one product.
John D. Rockefeller became very wealthy by cornering much of the oil market in the 19th century. But he didn’t become fabulously wealthy until the 20th century, when the rise of automobiles created a market for all the “waste” gasoline.
Rockefeller became super-wealthy when all the products of each barrel of oil could be sold at a premium rather than just a portion of the products.
This reality has been forgotten: the price that can be fetched for a barrel of oil depends on the demand for all the products, not just a few of the products.
Those demanding an all-electric auto-truck fleet as a “green” alternative will re-create the dilemma of what to do with the “waste” gasoline. The world will still want fuel for all those container ships bringing all the goodies of a consumerist society, all those cruise ships visiting ports of call, jet fuel for all those exotic vacations enabled by 550 mile-per-hour aircraft, and oil-based lubricants, plastics and petro-chemicals, and so oil will still be pumped and refined, and almost half of it will be gasoline.
We can either use it or throw it away but we can’t magically turn a barrel of oil into only one product.
This is a topic worthy of your understanding, so grab a vat of your favorite beverage and turn off all distractions.
Longtime readers know I’ve focused on energy-oil markets for 15 years. Despite ups and downs in price, the oil market has been remarkably stable.
This stability is about to transition to chronic instability: wild swings in price, shortages, and social chaos in both producing and consumer nations.