No Right Turn: Climate change: Ending oil

Written By: - Date published: 6:51 am, July 9th, 2017 - 53 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, Environment, transport - Tags: ,

No Right Turn: Climate change: Ending oil

 Fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change. A significant chunk of those fossil fuels are burned in cars, so if we want to beat climate change, we need to stop doing that. And today, the French government signalled that it would do just that, announcing that it would ban the sale of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars by 2040:

Nicolas Hulot, the country’s new ecology minister, said: “We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.” Hulot added that the move was a “veritable revolution”.He said it would be a “tough” objective for carmakers but France’s industry was well equipped to make the switch. “Our [car]makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise … which is also a public health issue.”

This is exactly what governments need to do to end the oil age and stop us destroying the world: send a credible signal to fossil fuel-intensive industries that their era is over, giving them time to come up with solutions. Though there are real questions as to whether France’s 2040 target is ambitious enough – both in terms of what needs to be done to decarbonise the economy, and because in France, electric cars will likely have taken over well before then. But hopefully, they’ll find they’re able to advance their deadline by five to ten years, depending on how well their car-makers rise to the challenge.

The rest of the EU is likely to rapidly follow suit on this. Norway has already set a 2025 target (though they will allow hybrids), and Germany is considering a 2030 target. And with major car manufacturers giving up on fossil fuels, governments might be behind the curve.

It does raise new problems: how to power all of those cars without burning fossil fuels in power plants. In France, their answer is probably to burn uranium instead (they seem quite happy to run the risk of poisoning themselves and their neighbours). Though at the rate solar and wind are going, it might be less of a problem than expected.

Meanwhile, there is the obvious question: where’s New Zealand’s target? Is our government also going to commit to ending the age of oil, and by doing so, spark the necessary infrastructure changes? Or are we going to leave it all up to the market again – and essentially commit to failure?

53 comments on “No Right Turn: Climate change: Ending oil”

  1. Keith 1

    It will only take a few countries like France that are major consumers of cars to ban fossil fueled vehicles to actually render the oil industry uneconomic, or at the very least one where investment is very unwise. However it would probably be naive to think the wealthy will not somehow thwart this to their advantage.

    Meanwhile we build more motorways like it 1959 and do nothing, even worse than nothing about climate change and appoint an imbecile like Paula Bennett as climate change minister, whose intent is focused on false appeances only.

    • BM 1.1

      I actually think this cause the direct opposite of what they are hoping to achieve.

      What’s going to happen to the price of oil as western countries switch away from oil? the price will plummet and cars with petrol and diesel engines will become worthless.

      Countries like India, Egypt, Indonesia and others who have very few cars relative to their population because the majority of people are very poor will start buying these vehicles for practically nothing.

      Combined that with cheap oil and you’ll see an explosion of vehicle growth throughout the high population poor regions of the world.

      The end result will just be more cars and no change to the climate.

      • weka 1.1.1

        Probably shouldn’t bother then.

        • BM

          I’m not saying don’t bother, I think it will do wonders for the environment locally.

          I just think it will have little impact on trying to halt climate change.

          • marty mars

            You’re saying it will have a greater overall negative effect on climate change than positive right? Make it worse. Based on your analysis. And if my memory serves me you have also said there is nothing we can do about climate change right? So everything put up will fail your negative overall effects on climate change analysis won’t it.

            • BM

              There’s a lot of countries very reliant on the money oil brings in, oil pays the bills.

              They don’t want the use of oil to end, they’re going to fight hard to keep selling it, they’ll turn to Africa, Indonesia or other countries with low car numbers and develop markets there.

            • Poission

              You’re saying it will have a greater overall negative effect on climate change than positive right? Make it worse.

              In short, it depends on the scale that is used.

              Under the Paris agreement electricity replacement for fossil fuel transport (an allowable offset) would tend to show a reduction in a country’s net emissions.It does not incorporate the full carbon accounting of the energy inputs.

              When the full life cycle accounting is undertaken,the results change from an increase in net emissions to small decreases over the full L/C.



      • Andre 1.1.2

        But it seems that China and India are well aware of the problems of fossil fuel reliance and are taking the problem a lot more seriously than western countries. Given that they’re transitioning from a very low car-ownership, they’re also much more accepting of limited range and simple basic vehicles.

        The only real cost obstacle to electric vehicles is the battery cost, and many organisations are working furiously on that. An electric motor and controller is much cheaper than an IC engine and transmission, and will become cheaper still as production volumes increase.

        So they’ll have more cars on their roads, but the majority of those will be electric.

        • weka

          What fuel are they using to power their cars, and manufacture them? That’s the underlying issue for all countries, and is why we should be looking at pubic transport over personal car use.

            • weka

              yes they are but that doesn’t really answer the question, and now you have to factor in the manufacture of renewables. If getting the whole world up to first world standards in terms of personal car use is a contributory factor to taking us past 2C, that’s pretty stupid when we could have reduced personal car use and optimised public transport instead.

              • Andre

                Go ahead and tell that to the Chinese and Indians. Let me know when you’re going to do it so I can come watch.

                • weka

                  I’m more interested in pointing it out to Westerners with a higher standard of living and sense of entitlement.

                  • Richard McGrath

                    So for you it’s more about dragging down the successful, for being successful, by blocking hydrocarbon use, than raising living standards in the Third World.

            • BM

              I had no idea that India was going full on electric they’ve shown such a complete disregard for the environment and their people.

              Short term I see no issue with electric power being produced by coal-fired plants, it’s much better to have all the pollution centralised at a handful of points where steps can be taken to minimise it has much as possible than to have millions of petrol engines of various efficiencies belching out waste.

              • Andre

                When you’ve got a few hundred million people genuinely wondering where their next few month’s meals are coming from, concern for the environment kinda takes a back seat.

                It’s more a reflection of how far the price of solar and wind have dropped so it’s cheaper to build new renewables than new fossil fuel plants. It looks like it’s not far away that it will be cheaper to build new renewables than to keep operating existing fossil plants.

            • Molly

              China has just unveiled plans for a forest city, planned to be completed just after 2020 – which even if not completely successful will provide a lot of information about do’s and don’t for transitional building practice.

              A few years ago, I watched a few documentaries about the changes taking place in China with environmental considerations being given prominence in some planning and building regulations. The unexpected benefit of such an authoritarian society is that they impose their regulations and take unheard of in NZ action – such as demolishing complete buildings – when they do not comply.

              The e2 series from PBS had a whole episode on China, (DVD was in Auckland Libraries if you are interested in having a look, but you can probably find it online now too.)

              Good series to see how other cities are approaching the transition to low carbon energy, planning and transport.

          • Macro

            China in particular is the leading country with the introduction of Electric cars. They already have over 1/2 million, and that figure is growing exponentially.
            From 2019 Volvo will cease the production of cars powered by conventional engines.
            The graph at the bottom shows the accelerating uptake of Electric cars by country with China the predominant leader

      • Molly 1.1.3

        Cars in NZ are desirable because our public transport is not comprehensive, and our planning of communities has been built around roads – and because of this our commutes are often quite long.

        The communities in both India and China are high density, and the roading networks are not as accommodating of cars as a method of getting from one place to another.

        I think you are projecting our cultural values onto other countries and what you predict (re: uptake of cars by those populations) will not come to pass. Even if there is a slight increase, it would not be enough to offset the benefits of transitioning the Western culture off fossil fuels.

        There is also a change that takes place in society when this deliberate choice to reduce fossil fuel becomes a requirement. When this adjustment is made, more residents will be looking and willing to make other choices that reduce fossil fuel usage in other aspects of their lives – and they will demand that governments do also.

      • joe90 1.1.4

        Combined that with cheap oil and you’ll see an explosion of vehicle growth throughout the high population poor regions of the world.

        On the other hand, why wouldn’t countries like Egypt, Indonesia and others who are looking to bypass 19th century interconnected network energy and communications with 21st century decentralised energy and communications, go straight to go with 21th century transport?.

        • BM


          • Andre

            But it’s already cheaper to go with local micro-grids, local generation and storage than it is to build a large scale grid. Similarly many parts of the world have gone straight to wireless comms, coz it’s cheaper.

          • joe90


            But they’ll cough up the enormous sums required to build transport infrastructure, right?

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.5

        You may not have noticed but China and India are having massive increases in car use:

        Bernstein said it expects most of this transport growth to happen in emerging markets like China and India, as global populations are set to rise by another two billion over the next 25 years to 9.2 billion.

        Growing GDP in those regions will increase demand for items once seen as luxuries, including automobiles and flights.

        Doesn’t seem that making fossil fuelled cars cheaper will much difference.

        Of course, the world could do something about all those second-hand cars that you’re worried about by stopping their exportation and make recycling them locally mandatory.

        • BM

          India’s current car ownership is 34 cars per 1000 people.
          China’s current car ownership is 140 cars per 1000 people.

          NZ’s current car ownership is 712 cars per 1000 people.

          Places like Japan with some of the best public transportation in the world it’s
          591 cars per 1000 people.

          That’s a hell of a lot of catching up to do and I just can’t see electric cars filling the gap, especially when you’ve got all these cheap petrol /diesel driven cars lying around and oil producing countries desperate to sell their oil.

          • Draco T Bastard

            That’s a hell of a lot of catching up to do and I just can’t see electric cars filling the gap,

            We shouldn’t even be thinking of having cars fill that gap but for public transport to do it.

            The world can’t actually afford for everyone to own a car. The idea that everyone can is part of the delusion that the West has from our delusional economic system.

  2. Ad 2

    Volvo has committed to only constructing hybrids and full electric.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Is our government also going to commit to ending the age of oil, and by doing so, spark the necessary infrastructure changes?

    This government won’t as they’re quite aware that there’s more profits available from excessive use of resources.

    Or are we going to leave it all up to the market again – and essentially commit to failure?

    This government has already committed to failure on this. Not sure what position Labour have taken yet but they don’t seem to be much better.

    What we should be hearing is a ban on importing fossil fuelled cars by 2025 and a ban on their use by 2030/35. From now to then we’d need a massive build up of renewable energy generation and the only way that can happen is for a full renationalisation of the power industry thus turning it back into a government service.

  4. France is a small player when it comes to motorised transport. The biggest player, the USA, just got the rest of the G20 to allow this to be written into the meeting’s outcomes:

    The US did successfully manage to insert text referencing fossil fuels which read: “The United States of America states it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently.”

    Unless the rest of them get together to make the USA a pariah state as long as it maintains climate-change denial, their own activities aren’t going to amount to much.

    • Andre 4.1

      Fortunately there’s a few Americans that are smarter than the orange swamp-toddler. They can see something of the future and where the future money is to be made. Electric will take over because it will be cheaper and better.

      The current clown show in Washington can only slow that, and give away geopolitical power and leadership while doing so. But they can’t stop it. It’s only a question of how much more damage gets done in the meantime.

      • Psycho Milt 4.1.1

        I’ve noticed that some of the state governments have rejected President Blowhard’s views on climate change, and various corporations have said they’ll work towards meeting the Paris commitments regardless (what have things come to when we’re relying on the private sector to do the right thing because the government won’t? That never happens!). Hopefully they will limit the amount of damage the Blowhard administration can do.

  5. Andre 5

    While most of the focus is on transport fuel use, that’s actually a relatively easy part of the problem. Most of the technological answers needed are already viable and in the mass-market and growing market share fast.

    The harder problems are aviation and shipping. They’re also industries that have done a good job of leveraging their international activities to avoid regulations and taxation that might push them towards a zero-emissions future. Their main effective incentive to reduce emissions is the price of oil.

    Aviation absolutely relies on the energy density of liquid fuels, so the only path I see to net zero carbon long haul aviation is biofuels.

    If we can impose emissions reductions on the shipping industry, there’s a good chance their most viable alternative will be nuclear propulsion. So we may be faced with a future where we either accept that nuclear propelled ships will be in our ports or we withdraw from global trade.

    • BM 5.1

      Interesting point about ships, just googled out of interest just to see how much pollution they produce.
      I’ll be honest I was expecting something like 5% or something minimal, was rather staggered to come across this.

      As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.

      Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.

      But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use.

    • Macro 5.2

      Wind powered cargo ships are here and now
      Not many but they have been on the drawing boards for some time. With the resolve by the G19 to total commitment to the Paris Accord, hopefully there will be a will globally to impose tighter regulations on global transportation.
      One spin-off of the America’s Cup I suppose is that like the developments in F1 the advances in technology improve the efficiency of the day-to-day fleet.

      • Andre 5.2.1

        Of those concepts, they’re mostly still concepts and the only ones that have undergone real-life trials are sails, kites, and Flettner rotors. While they are certainly useful as secondary propulsion to reduce fuel use when the apparent wind is in a favourable direction, they simply can’t reliably harvest enough energy to be the primary propulsion for a heavy cargo vessel with a schedule to keep.

        When start doing the math, things like the power requirement for say a Cook Strait ferry doing say 17 knots, or a tanker doing say ten knots, power requirements get up into the 5MW to 15 MW range continuously required. So there’s a huge amount of wind that has to be harvested (a wind turbine rated at 5MW is around 140m rotor diameter 100m hub height, and they’re generally only producing at somewhere in the range of 30% of capacity). Then plug it all back into how much righting moment the vessel needs to keep that wind harvesting stuff pointed at the sky and it all comes back to a great big nope.

        All the America’s Cup and F1 stuff is about minimising weight. Those AC50 catamarans weigh around 2400kg, about the same as a LandCruiser. While it’s helpful keeping stuff above decks as light as possible, that kind of tech really isn’t applicable to a big pudgy hull that’s trying to carry a lot of heavy stuff around.

        • Macro

          2020 will see the launch of the Ecoship

          The B9 is ready and waiting.
          If countries act together to impose restrictions on shipping wrt emissions shipping companies will be forced to adopt more efficient means of powering their ships.

          Global shipping firm Maersk is planning to fit spinning “rotor sails” to one of its oil tankers as a way of reducing its fuel costs and carbon emissions.

          The company behind the technology, Finnish firm Norsepower, says this is the first retrofit installation of a wind-powered energy system on a tanker.

          • Andre

            It’s supplemental propulsion, not primary. The Ecoship only thinks they’re going to get a 40% reduction in emissions, and usually projections like that end up being quite optimistic.

            From the Ecoship article:

            “Of course, the main opportunity and challenge when it comes to environmental performance is propulsion. In optimal conditions, the vessel’s ten retractable wind energy-generating masts and 6,000m² top-deck solar farm will dramatically reduce the use of traditional fuel. Cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be used as a top-up fuel, and Peace Boat also hopes to future-proof the propulsion system by making it adaptable to the use of biofuel and even kitchen waste as alternative sources of fuel.

            What do all these features add up to in terms of top-line environmental performance? As well as reducing carbon emissions by 40% when compared to pre-2000 cruise ships using standard propulsion, the Ecoship will also eliminate NOx and SOx emissions. A closed-loop water system means no water discharge or sea dumping.”

            From the Maersk article:
            “The 240 metre-long Maersk tanker will be retrofitted with two modernised versions of the Flettner rotor that are 30 metres tall and five metres in diameter. In favourable wind conditions, each sail can produce the equivalent of 3MW of power using only 50kW of electricity. Norsepower expect to reduce average fuel consumption on typical global shipping routes by 7% to 10%, equivalent to about 1,000 tonnes of fuel a year.”

            Favourable conditions means to get anywhere close to the rated 3MW means a strong wind from an aft quadrant, so the ship’s motion brings the apparent wind around to approximately perpendicular to the boat’s travel. Which is a fairly rare circumstance. And while Flettner rotors give a lot of lift for their area, they also have very high drag. So the apparent wind needs to be no closer to the bow than maybe 50 degrees or so to get any benefit, so the with the ship’s motion taken into account the true wind needs to be a fair bit further aft than that.

  6. Bill 6

    Is it worth throwing in that France also just recently made moves to kill off all oil exploration?

    France will stop granting new licences for oil and gas exploration on the mainland and in overseas territories, Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said Friday.

    “There will be no new exploration licences for hydrocarbons, we will pass the law this autumn,” Hulot said on BFMTV.

    President Emmanuel Macron said during his election campaign in February that he was opposed to exploration for gas and shale gas in mainland France.

    Macron even said he would like to see the exploitation of oil and gas halted altogether in France’s overseas territories, especially in French Guiana on the northeastern coast of South America.

    But Hulot, an environmental campaigner and former TV star before he joined the cabinet last month, said it would currently be impossible to take such a move without triggering lawsuits from energy companies.

  7. mauī 7

    Considering everything in our lives has embedded energy (oil) in it, from consumer products to transport to the food we eat, we’ll be tied to oil for aslong as we can.

    As Dmitry Orlov points out western countries driving personal electric cars would kill both the oil industry and the car industry itself as you would end up driving on unsealed roads. Because guess what our roads are made out of.

  8. As the substance of most of the adove comments show, humans and their brum brums are screwed, once the planes, trains, and automobiles stop immiting soot/sunlight blocking particles, global temps will rise by upwards of 3c …. practically overnight, ie like when all the planes in the USA were grounded back on September 12 2011 it is documented that no planes for just 24 hours caused the tempriture to go up 1c.
    For me to see 63, keep pumping out the crap please.

    • Andre 9.1

      Getting ready to shed the ol’ container when the next comet swings by? New Nikes and trackies optional, that was just a weird California thing.

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