'Just Stop Oil' - What Would It Mean For The Automotive Industry?
Just Stop Oil describe themselves as a coalition of several groups focused on tackling the climate emergency. The group are infamously known for shutting down vital infrastructure, such as the M25 motorway, to force the British Government into stopping new fossil fuel licensing and production. Everyone is aware of the issues of climate change and the impact of fossil fuels, but not everyone is aware of just how much we need, use and require fossil fuels for day to day life. Many of life's necessities are products made from oil, including the raw materials of cars. So, what would "just stopping oil" mean for the automotive industry and transport as we know it?
Making a car
Cars, vans, lorries and everything in between require raw materials from around the world in their production process. Replacement parts are no different. While many products and materials are required in making a vehicle, there five key raw materials required:
The last two materials on the list, oil is a vital ingredient in their production.
The American Chemistry Council state that around 50% of our modern cars are made of some form of plastic. Plastic is cheap, light and durable to make, making it a perfect component for a vehicle. Consider your key fob, seat belts, vents, dials, speedometer and dashboard - all made from plastic.
Beyond the internal cosmetics of the car, you may be surprised to learn that there are, in fact, engine components made of polymers and plastics too.
None of this would be possible without the use oil to create the plastic in the first place. What would a car, van, lorry or motorbike look like without plastic?
Most obvious of all is our rubber tyres. No tyres, no vehicle. Approximately 75% of the world's rubber is produced to make tyres for the entire range of vehicles. Not only do tyres allow the vehicle to actually move, but well-maintained tyres keep us safe, protect the car and improve fuel economy.
Rubber is widely used in the engine and mechanical parts of the car; rubber seals, mounts, hoses, belts etc. Wiper blades are also made of rubber.
Like plastic, rubber is made from oil. There is a trending pattern here.
The undeniable need for vehicles
In an ideal world, we would all be able to walk or cycle everywhere and for longer journeys hop on a bus or train. But the stark reality is that this is simply not plausible for everyone.
Transportation of goods, food and fuel
To start with, our country relies on imports and the transportation of food, goods and fuel up and down the country. This requires vans, lorries and tankers to move large quantities in on go. None of this would be possible without the use of vehicles. No food on the shelves, no fuel in the station, no medicine in the pharmacies, no supplies in the hospitals, no postal service. The list could easily go on. While many companies are turning their fleets "green", utilising electric or hybrid delivery vehicles, not technology is not yet there to allow this for larger HGV-style vehicles. And, as mentioned above, without oil, we simply could not produce these vehicles in the first place.
It is difficult to imagine a situation where the fire brigade arrive at a house fire with all their equipment via train. Or paramedics transport you on a bus when you are critically ill. Or maybe they would have to arrive by foot, without boots, flame-retardant clothing and no hose because we have "just stopped" using oil for anything. Our emergency services simply could not carry out their function of serving and protecting the public without the use of a vehicle.
Personal use car
According to the Statista Research Department , in 2020 25.7 million in Great Britain lived in a household that owned at least one car. People use their cars for a variety of reasons: commuting to and from work, visiting friends and family, health and social care. Those in more rural areas with significantly less transport links than those in bigger cities are more heavily reliant on their cars for basic needs.
What is the alternative?
It has to be acknowledged that we have not even touched on the use of oil for physically running the car, whether that be in diesel, petrol or engine oil. The harsh reality is that without oil being used to create the raw materials, cars simply would not exist.
In the modern world, vehicles have become an essential part of our infrastructure, accelerating scientific advances and improving the quality of life for millions. Of course, we would be ignorant to ignore the environmental impact of CO2 emissions emitted by cars and highlight the switch, where possible, to an electric or hybrid vehicle. The purpose of this article was to identify that oil is way beyond the stereotypical image of off-shore oil rigs and a thick black liquid being used to heat our homes. Oil is used all around us in millions of everyday items.
Is there an alternative? Or do we have to accept that oil has become an essential part of life. Food for thought.