How Oil Will Die

June 15, 2017

Long article here, worth reading the whole thing at the link.

Seth Miller in Medium:

The Keystone XL will go down as the world’s last great fossil fuels infrastructure project. TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, charged about $10 per barrel for the transportation services, which means the pipeline extension earned about $5 million per day, or $1.8 billion per year. But after shutting down less than four years into its expected 40 year operational life, it never paid back its costs.

The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.

And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts.

Cars are complicated.

Behind the hum of a running engine lies a carefully balanced dance between sheathed steel pistons, intermeshed gears, and spinning rods — a choreography that lasts for millions of revolutions. But millions is not enough, and as we all have experienced, these parts eventually wear, and fail. Oil caps leak. Belts fray. Transmissions seize.

To get a sense of what problems may occur, here is a list of the most common vehicle repairs from 2015:

  1. Replacing an oxygen sensor — $249
  2. Replacing a catalytic converter — $1,153
  3. Replacing ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) — $390
  4. Tightening or replacing a fuel cap — $15
  5. Thermostat replacement — $210
  6. Replacing ignition coil(s) — $236
  7. Mass air flow sensor replacement — $382
  8. Replacing spark plug wire(s) and spark plug(s) — $331
  9. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve — $168
  10. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purging solenoid — $184

And this list raises an interesting observation: None of these failures exist in an electric vehicle.

The point has been most often driven home by Tony Seba, a Stanford professor and guru of “disruption”, who revels in pointing out that an internal combustion engine drivetrain contains about 2,000 parts, while an electric vehicle drivetrain contains about 20. All other things being equal, a system with fewer moving parts will be more reliable than a system with more moving parts.

And that rule of thumb appears to hold for cars. In 2006, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimated that the average vehicle, built solely on internal combustion engines, lasted 150,000 miles.

Current estimates for the lifetime today’s electric vehicles are over 500,000 miles.

The ramifications of this are huge, and bear repeating. Ten years ago, when I bought my Prius, it was common for friends to ask how long the battery would last — a battery replacement at 100,000 miles would easily negate the value of improved fuel efficiency. But today there are anecdotal stories of Prius’s logging over 600,000 miles on a single battery.

The story for Teslas is unfolding similarly. Tesloop, a Tesla-centric ride-hailing company has already driven its first Model S for more 200,000 miles, and seen only an 6% loss in battery life. A battery lifetime of 1,000,000 miles may even be in reach.

This increased lifetime translates directly to a lower cost of ownership: extending an EVs life by 3–4 X means an EVs capital cost, per mile, is 1/3 or 1/4 that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Better still, the cost of switching from gasoline to electricity delivers another savings of about 1/3 to 1/4 per mile. And electric vehicles do not need oil changes, air filters, or timing belt replacements; the 200,000 mile Tesloop never even had its brakes replaced. The most significant repair cost on an electric vehicle is from worn tires.

For emphasis: The total cost of owning an electric vehicle is, over its entire life, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Of course, with a 500,000 mile life a car will last 40–50 years. And it seems absurd to expect a single person to own just one car in her life.

But of course a person won’t own just one car. The most likely scenario is that, thanks to software, a person won’t own any.


According to a tweet from Elon Musk this morning, Tesla’s Superchargerstations are all being converted to solar and battery power. Musk added that eventually, most of them will be completely disconnected from the electricity grid.

This move comes after an announcement earlier this year that the company would be doubling its network of Superchargers, bringing their total number up to 10,000 by the year’s end. And with so many of its highly in-demand Model 3 cars set to begin shipping by the end of 2017, more Superchargers are going to be necessary. In April, the company said that some of the new Superchargers would be solar powered, but this is the first we’ve heard about a plan to convert them all.


As of last week, Tesla had begun construction on or obtained permits for over 40 additional Supercharger stations. But it’s unclear how many of those will be built with solar arrays.

Musk didn’t expound on when these conversions would begin or how long they would take to complete.

48 Responses to “How Oil Will Die”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    “These are coal powered.”

    What a crock. Coal represents only 30% of U.S. grid electricity production, and dropping like a rock:

    • mboli Says:

      Before cheering loudly for electric cars, check out the EIA’s eGRID data, it shows the GHG emissions per kWH for different parts of the US electric grid. Where I live it is 0.63 kg (of CO2 equivalent).
      The page is here:
      Find your region on the subregion map, you can see the GHG emissions in the summary table spreadsheet. Numbers are lb per MWH.

      You then have to find out how many kWH per mile for a particular electric vehicle. For a Nissan Leaf it is just about 3.0 miles per KWH. Meaning emissions would be 0.21 kg per mile of CO2 equivalent.

      For comparison, burning gasoline produces about 8.9 kg of CO2 per gallon. A 35 MPG car produces about 0.25 kg per mile of CO2.

      I’m all in favor of electric cars. But you don’t automatically get a climate halo for driving one.

      • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

        The difference is that the fuel supply for electric cars can and will get greener.
        Fuel for ICE cars can’t, (unless made from sequestered atmospheric CO₂, and that can only be neutral).

        Tesla’s chargers are going to need a lot of space for solar panels –
        1 car charging at 120kW is going to need 120,000 / 200W m² of panels = 600m².
        That’s 2.3 tennis court’s worth per car per hour during daylight, plus more required to cover for charging at night from batteries.

        Not impossible, but it’s something to think about if you want to charge 1,000 cars per day at one site.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        It takes a lot of CO2 to make that gasoline, btw. Real numbers show that an electric car, even if driven by electricity made by coal is substantially lower than an ICE car.

      • patricklinsley Says:

        Another good site to use (and I believe using about the same data) is from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
        It has the update this year using grid data from 2014 (as opposed to the old analysis using data from 2009) showing how many mpg a car would have to get to equal the CO2 equivalent of EVs from grid power and a slider between 2009 and 2014 showing the stunning change of how much our grid cleaned up in that time (over 70% of Americans are in an area that would require a car getting 50 mpg or better to equal grid power for instance). Probably the most amazing fact that when it gets updated again is that it will be even cleaner yet.

        • mboli Says:

          Thanks! Appreciate it. 2014 is the latest data from the government, by the way. And if I am not mistaken, that 2014 data was released within the past year. Which is why everybody uses it.
          The eGRID web site has a lot of very particular data on electricity generation. It takes a few minutes to find the spreadsheet with the summary GHG data.
          I thought it is really cool that for my region the GHG emissions have declined from 0.70 to 0.62 kg/kWH. So about 10% improvement in about 5 years.
          Really nice that people are posting web pages that combine and digest the data into a form that makes sense. The EPA publishes those “MPG equivalent” ratings for electric cars, but they are not helpful by themselves.

          • patricklinsley Says:

            You’re welcome and thanks for explaining how to use the eGrid data. It’s always good to know how information is compiled so that you can ‘check the work’ as it were of people who are using the data since I’m sure some a-hole at IER or some other oil funded stink tank is going to be cherry picking data to say that electric cars are the worst thing since sliced Hitler or some other such blather.

  2. Gingerbaker Says:

    It is going to be interesting to see how much more simplified and modularized EV’s will become.

    Imagine a battery module, a motor/gearing module, an electronics module.

    Imagine that battery module being offered in standardized configurations, housed in an aluminum or stainless steel chassis structure, to which one hangs four suspension components, one or two motor modules, controller module. Add electricals, interior, and exterior frame and modular body or body panels. You have a modular EV which you could self-assemble from parts from Pep Boys. Cars will become very inexpensive.

    Imagine an EV fleet of 250 million cars, trucks, and semis – what is on the U.S. road system today – which need much small batteries because major roads all offer dynamic electric charging. Now cars could be even cheaper.

  3. mboli Says:

    This article explains why I have an electric plug-in lawn mower. It is basically a big electric fan. Former one lasted 20+ years w/o maintenance until some bracket for the handle died of metal fatigue. And it is quieter than the gasoline ones.

  4. vierotchka Says:

    The only things I ever had to replace in my cars was spark plugs, brake pads and window wipers!

    • grindupbaker Says:

      I’m with you. I haven’t changed the engine oil for 185,000 kilometres either. I think they just made that up about engines needing oil.

      • Have you noticed any smoke behind you as you’re driving? 🙂

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Keith, the only smoke around Vera is that which she is constantly blowing in her attempts to distract us from any discussion of what may lead to the bankruptcy of Putin’s russia—-the death of fossil fuels, without which russia would have no economy to speak of.

          The “only things she has ever had to replace in her cars was spark plugs, brake pads and window wipers”? Totally ignorant bullshit from a stupid woman who proves she knows nothing about cars either.

          Windshield wipers may last only a year or two, but good spark plugs can last 100,000 miles, and brake pads 30,000 to 70,000, by which time the oil and filter should have been changed many times. Stupid troll.

      • toby52 Says:


        I did not change engine oil or get a service for a few years – result engine blew up & had to buy a new one. False economy.

        I drive a hybrid now.

    • You’ve been lucky. I was with my previous car too.

      This one not so much:
      – new turbocharger
      – new glow plugs, which unfortunately meant taking the top of the engine as one snapped off
      – new exhaust
      – multiple filter changes
      – coolant change
      – multiple suspension parts (probably happen on an EV too)

      On my experience, I would suggest that anecdotal evidence is not very useful in this case as cars can vary hugely. A systematic study would be more useful.

      • vierotchka Says:

        I forgot to mention that my car was an origial, first generation (1978) Mazda RX7 with a Wankel engine. 🙂 Great car which hugged the road fantastically in curves, but a real gas guzzler…

        • dumboldguy Says:

          More inane and lying BS from Vera, who can be counted on to do all she can to distract us from the real topic and clog the discussion. Now she says MY CAR (singular) rather than the the MY CARS (plural) of her earlier comment. If the 1978 Mazda RX-7 is/was her only car, it needed a total engine rebuild every 50,000 miles or so.

          And yes, Putin would love to see all ICE cars powered by Wankel rotaries. Since they ARE such “gas guzzlers”, his soon-to-die oil would maintain its value longer if that were so.

  5. vierotchka Says:

    What about water-powered cars? Oh, they have been sabotaged…

    There are air powered cars, too:

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Vera the troll is still attempting to distract us from the coming death of oil and the russian economy that depends on it. Shameless whore for Putin and the russian oligarchs!

      Water and air-powered cars? Please!

      Vera knows no physics either or she would understand that the first law of thermodynamics demands that energy be consumed in creating the “fuel” from the water or compressing the air.

      As mboli points out, even full electric cars produce a lot of CO2 equivalent depending on what proportion of the electricity used to charge them comes from renewables. The air and water cars represent no real advance.

  6. The Seth Miller article is worth the few extra minutes to read it.

    I hope the gurus are correct when they say that big oil will die by 2023.

    THAT would be a great day.

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    “Of course, with a 500,000 mile life a car will last 40–50 years.”

    Avg. car life = 150,000 miles, 8 years.
    3 1/2 x 150,000 = 500,000
    3 1/2 x 8 ≠ 40 to 50

    Unless the assumption is that people will drive a lot less, which I certainly hope is true, but it’s not part of what people are excited about about EVs.

    I think the whole tech improvement thing is wasted unless we also change our lives, make them smarter and wiser and take mass transit more–trains, high speed rail, buses, jitneys, shorter commutes as work and home become closer over time, as we also work less because we’re more productive (no more falling fossil fuel EROEI; instead, increasing EROEI as wind and solar improve.

    A lot of what’s been happening in our lives is a result of that decreasing EROEI: inflation, a shrinking economic pie in some ways and the rich and powerful reacting by trying to not just hang onto their share but increase it through rent-sharing activities–lobbying for more money and power,, which are interchangeable commodities in our society. That’s caused increasing inequality and autocracy in the US and other places, Middle East wars that caused the 2001 attacks that caused repression at home and abroad, and more wars. Unfortunately, wars use up tremendous amounts of fossil fuels too so it’s formed a positive feedback loop, as so many of these things have. We now have a chance to reverse at least the proximal cause of so many of our current problems. Because people get stuck in characterological habits (war mongering, selfishness, manipulation, a split between rich and poor, corporate duopoly kabuki elections and disenfranchised majority…) we can’t simply go back to happier times; we have to move on from where we are and also have to change education, institutions, politics, and everything else.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Sorry to pick on you, but reading Vera’s BS so early in the morning makes me cranky.

      You say “…we can’t simply go back to happier times; we have to move on from where we are and also have to change education, institutions, politics, and everything else”.

      I agree, especially with the need to change EVERYTHING ELSE. Please tell us where to start (or should we wait until millions of humans are making a fresh start on Mars?)

        • dumboldguy Says:

          That now makes four “obsession” gifs. That’s Vera—-Boring and repetitive and unimaginative.

          It shows again Vera’s obsession with herself and the insane idea that making feeble and stupid responses to those who point out truths about her shortcomings will EVER stop doing so. Score is now Vera 2, the rest of the world 200+ and climbing.

  8. dumboldguy Says:

    Three moronic comments from Vera, followed by three comments from me trying to inject some sense into her nonsense.

    Her feeble response to that is THREE of her moronic gifs, all asking why I am “obsessed” with her. LMAO! I am no more obsessed with Vera than I am with the occasional presents from the dog world that i find on my lawn or sidewalk—-they are stinky and have flies and just need to be cleaned up to make the world a nicer place.

    If I am “obsessed” with anything, it’s the need to help keep Crock free of dog poop like Vera, Russell Cook, Tom Bates, Adrian Vance, and Ron Voisin. Vera is the most dangerous of all of them—the others are simply deniers, but Vera is an instrument of Russia and Putin—-a paid propagandist who attacks the US and its institutions at the behest of our biggest enemy.

    And I will again say that “Vera” is very likely not some senile and stupid old lady in Geneva but a crew of young male russian hackers in a basement in Moscow pretending to be her. Think about it folks—-have you ever know any woman anywhere to be so crude, vulgar, and deluded? Vera is a soul mate to Alex Jones and makes Ann Coulter look like Mother Teresa.

    • mboli Says:

      Interesting! There is a web site chock full of these animated gifs:

      My guess, @d.o.g., is that it isn’t helpful to personify @vera. Don’t think of @vera as “a crew of young male russian hackers in a basement in Moscow” OR as “some senile and stupid old lady in Geneva.”

      You are doing battle with a corporate entity, a *thing*. It matters not whether some poster was male or female, it doesn’t matter where they are located. The posters are interchangeable parts in a propaganda machine. *They* know that. You can’t hurt their feelings. You can’t shame them. You can’t chase them away by social pressure.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yes, there are indeed a number of web sites chock full of these animated gifs. People like Vera/the hackers with limited brainpower and no imagination find them easy to use and don’t understand how self-defeating they are.

        I am “doing battle” with no one, whether it be russian hackers or a senile old hag. I am merely trying to keep Crockers, especially new ones, alert to the games people are attempting to play as they interfere with Crock’s mission. The only “personification” that I attempt with she/them is to compare them to dog turds.

        It is not my intention to “hurt their feelings, shame them, or chase them away by social pressure”, but merely to expose her/them for what they are. You are correct that they are “immune”—–what I’d really like to see is Peter wake up to the damage they do to his work and ban her/them. They have long outlived their usefulness as bad examples.

        • mboli Says:

          Righto, @d.o.g. I completely agree that @vera is a plague, a disimprovement to the atmosphere and the discussion. Reading the average denier I might become enlightened about the current denier memes. But @vera is just random hooey crudding up the place. Filtering it out would be beneficial.
          My feeling is that:
          — when the audience for your missives is @greenman, you might do better by writing to same.
          — when the audience for your missives is passersby who are not regulars, it might be more effectful to post a single warning near the top of the comments addressed to newcomers and leave it at that.
          Because complaining about @vera to @vera seems not to be working. Just increases the crud level with every exchange.

          • vierotchka Says:

            I ONLY post these in response to the filthy insults and attacks these trolls aim at me. As I told them numerous times, f they ignored my normal posts, there would not be my counter-attacks. But, they are so obsessed with me that they systematically attack and insult me. It is not rocket science, but they are too dumb and to obsessed by me to understand that.

        • mboli Says:

          Anyway, that will likely be my last word on the topic. I’ll follow what you write, but I don’t have anything else to say.

      • I disagree with your assessment.

        Vera, whether she be male or female, or a gang of either, is a Russian troll. And, she/he/it frequently seeks to spread misinformation, whether it be about Putin or Russia or climate change.

        Because other people read here, I feel it would not serve anyone but the troll and her country to simply let it all go without a response. People should be made aware of what the troll is about.

        • vierotchka Says:

          Total and absolute bullshit, and you know it, (((ClimactericNicunt))). Just ignore me and don’t attack and insult me, and you won’t get the well-deserved punishment I level at you.

        • vierotchka Says:

          By the way, my countries are Switzerland and the UK, no other.

          In the final analysis, one can only conclude that…

    • “Vera is a soul mate to Alex Jones and makes Ann Coulter look like Mother Teresa.”

      Absolutely. And, honestly, I am so damn effing sick of her, I may just stay away for awhile.

      She is one very nasty, idiotic troll.

      • vierotchka Says:

        I’ve explained to you time and time again that if you ignore my normal posts and stop responding to them by attacking and insulting me, (((ClimactericNicunt))), there will be no counter-attacks from me – but you and your Doggy master are obsessed by me and too dumb to understand this. My responses are exclusively made to your and your Doggy master’s trolling. Get a brain, girl.

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