Can we quickly replace fossil fuels with renewables?
No, not anytime soon
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that renewables (including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas, and low-impact hydroelectricity) represented 11% of our energy demand in 2019 and are expected to reach 18% by 2050. Fossil fuels (including petroleum, natural gas, and coal) accounted for 80% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2019 and are projected at 76% in 2050. 1
Many of the products we now think of as everyday essentials come from oil and natural gas. Not just gasoline and other fuels, but also products that are produced using petrochemicals, like phones, toys, heart valves, and even shampoo. Fossil fuels are versatile and used in transportation, for industrial and commercial uses, and for electricity generation.
Energy density is the amount of usable energy that can be stored in a given mass of a substance or system. Fuels high in energy content use less space and are often the easiest to transport for various uses. Pound for pound no product offers nearly the energy density or efficiency of fossil fuels. For instance, a gallon of gasoline contains the amount of energy produced by 13,0000 AA batteries.2
The petrochemicals we manufacture are often critical to driving environmental progress. For instance, hydroponic farming, which minimizes the need for water and eliminates the need for soil, is made possible through advanced engineered plastics enabled by petrochemicals. Additionally, lightweight, flexible, semi-transparent and highly customizable solar panels are made possible by petrochemicals in the panels' coating. These new solar panels can be fitted on almost any surface, from building windows to semi-trucks .3
3 Phillips 66