Oil can never be replaced with alternative energy

People who think that wind, solar, biofuels, hydrogen, batteries, and so on will save us simply don’t understand how much energy is contained in oil and other fossil fuels, how much we rely on it, how it is at the root of every aspect of our lives.

January 3, 2014 Few transportation fuels surpass the energy densities of gasoline and diesel

Graph of energy densities of different fuels, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on the National Defense University.

Energy density and the cost, weight, and size of onboard energy storage are important characteristics of fuels for transportation.

Fuels that require large, heavy, or expensive storage can reduce the space available to convey people and freight, weigh down a vehicle (making it operate less efficiently), or make it too costly to operate, even after taking account of cheaper fuels. Compared to gasoline and diesel, other options may have more energy per unit weight, but none have more energy per unit volume.

On an equivalent energy basis, motor gasoline was estimated to account for 99% of light-duty vehicle fuel consumption in 2012. Over half of the remaining 1% was from diesel; all other fuels combined for less than half of 1%. The widespread use of these fuels is largely explained by their energy density and ease of onboard storage, as no other fuels provide more energy within a given unit of volume.

The chart above compares energy densities (both per unit volume and per unit weight) for several transportation fuels that are available throughout the United States. The data points represent the energy content per unit volume or weight of the fuels themselves, not including the storage tanks or other equipment that the fuels require. For instance, compressed fuels require heavy storage tanks, while cooled fuels require equipment to maintain low temperatures (my comment: this is important because the heavier a vehicle, the fewer miles per gallon it can go).

Beyond gasoline and diesel, other fuels like compressed propane, ethanol, and methanol offer energy densities per unit volume that are less than gasoline and diesel, and energy densities per unit weight that are less than or equal to that of gasoline. Natural gas, either in liquefied form (LNG) or compressed (CNG), are lighter than gasoline but again have lower densities per unit volume. The same is true for hydrogen fuels, which must be either cooled (down to -253oC) or compressed (to 3,000 to 10,000 psi).


More energy density tables:

Btu per
cubic foot
1058      Diesel fuel
990        F-T Diesel
950        Biorenewable Diesel
922        Gasoline
683        Propane
635        LNG
594        Ethanol
488        Methanol
270        Liquid hydrogen
266        CNG @ 3626 psi
68          Compressed Hydrogen @ 3626 psi
16          NiMH Battery

Percent of
Diesel Fuel
Energy Density
100.0 %      Diesel Fuel
93.6 %        F-T Diesel
89.8 %        Biorenewable Diesel
87.2 %        Gasoline
64.6 %        Propane
60.0 %        LNG
56.2 %        Ethanol
46.1 %        Methanol
25.5 %        Liquid Hydrogen
25.1 %        CNG  @ 3626 psi
6.4 %          Compressed Hydrogen @ 3626 psi
1.3 %          NiMH Battery

There are a lot of videos and movies about this, here’s some recent ones from national geographic.

Run out of oil

Aftermath: world without oil

Oil in your life today:

MMFTFF = Materials Mined, Fabricated, Transported with Fossil Fuels

MFO – Made from oil or natural gas — fossil fuels are a substance in over half a million products

EGNGC = Electricity Generated from Natural Gas or Coal, other power plants such as dams (hydroelectric) and Windmills were MMFTFF

Alarm went off: alarm was MMFTFF, likely powered by electricity generated from natural gas or coal (EGNGC). LThe plast

Brush teeth: toothbrush was MMFTFF and is made from fossil fuels (plastic has oil in int).  Medicines: MMFTFf and made from oil.

Shower – water pumped with EGNGC electricity, all materials MMFTFF

Your clothes?  All MMFTFF and all synthetics are made from oil.

Breakfast: eggs fried with natural gas, pan, plate, fork, knife, spoon MMFTFF.  All of the food was planted by a tractor that burned oil, harvested with oil, driven to the store with oil.

Drive or commute to work?  Oil.


This entry was posted in Oil. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.