A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What a ban on fossil fuel would mean

Written December 21st, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Electric cars, charging at Linn-Benton Community College in June, would be all right if fossil fuels are banned.

Younger residents of Albany and the rest of Oregon might be interested in Initiative Petition 50, which would drastically affect everybody’s life by banning the use fossil fuels in 30 years.

The secretary of state has just received the certified ballot title: “Greenhouse gas emissions from industry, fossil fuels must be eliminated by 2050; requires rules, enforcement.”

This ballot proposal by a couple of citizens, one from Bend and the other from around Cannon Beach, has the virtue of simplicity. No complicated system of emission caps, allowances, trading, and a bureaucracy to make it all work as the Democrats in the legislature want. No, a simple ban with strict rules and, presumably, emission cops to enforce them.

Start a gasoline motor in 2050, and somebody will come and arrest you or do some other enforcement kind of thing. Same thing if you turn up the thermostat to fire up your natural-gas-burning furnace on a winter night. Of course that can’t happen, because by then there would be no motor fuel for sale, and the gas company would have closed down.

We’d have 30 years to prepare for this happy day. Right around 2040 or so, cars running on gasoline or diesel would start becoming worthless. Who would buy a clunker that will become illegal in a few years? People would have to start buying electric vehicles without trading anything in. But first somebody would have to produce 4 million electric cars and trucks to replace the existing fleet.

In its 2018 report, the Oregon Department of Energy says transportation fuels accounted for 38 percent of all the energy Oregonians used in 2016. Electricity accounted for 35 percent, and natural gas and fuel oil another 27 percent.

So, if natural gas and other fossil fuels are banned, we’d have to just about triple electric production to make up for the loss of heating and transportation energy. But as of a couple of years ago, nearly half of electric consumption in Oregon came from burning coal and natural gas. These sources would no longer be available under Initiative 50. (Coal won’t be available anyway, under existing laws.)

The department says Oregon’s total energy use has gone down in recent years because of greater efficiencies. So maybe in 30 years they won’t have to replace all the energy that now comes from fossil fuels. But they would still have to replace a huge chunk. If they don’t, Oregonians will be looking at more blackouts, burning wood for heat, and hopping on bikes for their commutes.

It’s uncertain whether Initiative Petition 50 will garner enough signatures to get on the ballot or, if so, whether it will pass. But just in case, if you expect to live past 2050, you might want to think about the changes a ban on fossil fuels would mean. (hh)

23 responses to “What a ban on fossil fuel would mean”

  1. Terry Fuston says:

    Two words. Nuclear Power. :)

  2. My Real Name John Hartman says:

    Glad to see the author attempting to frighten an entire group of people, most of who will not be around to witness the implementing date of the proposed referendum. We currently have a Commander-in-Chief who uses similar rhetorical tactics. He’s been impeached.

    • Terry Fuston says:

      And the Senate will acquit him so the impeachment meant nothing other than a waste of time.

      • My Real Name John Hartman says:

        It means that there is finally somebody watching over the criminality taking place on a daily basis.

    • Dave says:

      Not yet officially impeached. They have voted on “articles of impeachment”, but as I understand it, unless Pelosi proceeds with the rest of the process moving forward to the Senate, the “impeachment” isn’t complete. Nothing like guilty until proven innocent.

  3. Mark Johnson says:

    you are on the right track here. The consequences of banning fossil fuels is more dire than the consequence of climate change. You don’t even touch on the loss of life due to reduction in food supplies, shortage of energy for heating and cooling, the loss in production of basic needs such as shelter. Energy is a requirement of any organism and to eliminate the most abundant and inexpensive form would mean mass homicide. Oil and natural gas began to be used as an energy source about the time the world population hit the one billion mark. Because of this energy source, we have now exceeded 7 billion. If we eliminate fossil fuels we should expect to return to pre- oil and gas population levels in a very quick and ugly way.

    • Will Larimer says:

      You said a mouthful. This earth can’t support 7 billion people without a cheap viable energy source. If the fruitcakes want to fix their invented climate disaster, they need to start finding a better way, or plan on starving with their neighbors. It’s stupid in the extreme to think that something can be fixed for humanity when the fix will wipe out billions. I just don’t understand why the brainwashed children don’t understand that it is THEM who will be starving, living under bridges and migrating to the equator on foot.

  4. HowlingCicada says:

    “””Oregonians will be looking at […] hopping on bikes for their commutes.”””

    Bring it on! Can’t happen soon enough. Will help solve a lot more than just climate change. As I’ve commented previously, you don’t need to accept the scientific consensus (or think that Oregon’s role is significant) to gain the benefits of reduced car-dependence.

    Biggest benefit? How about a reduced need for expensive land for roads and parking space? Helps solve the housing problem. Increases density without increasing the perception of crowding, by reducing car space but not green space. Reduces the distance to everything.

    More bike and pedestrian space, instead of car space, makes a non-car-owning lifestyle even more safe and attractive.

    The new paradigm “mobility as a service” rather than car ownership is already recognized by car makers, if not by the fossil-fuel industry and our President.

    • Cheryl P says:

      So you will have a trailer on the back of your bike to bring baby home from the hospital?

      • HowlingCicada says:

        If the way home was like the Dave Clark Path, then yes. If it was like Pacific Blvd., then no. ;-)

        The real question should be “Do I need to own a car, sitting in front of my house, in order to deal with rare events?”

        The obvious answer is that there are plenty of alternatives. My favorite (only a few years into the future) is self-driving taxi service, transferring to slow-moving micro vehicles to reach the car-free interiors of superblocks. Everyone’s home would still be reachable by emergency vehicles when really needed.


  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Thinking back to a different century when societal change came to entire populations… Admittedly the scale of the change is much smaller due to population differences, nevertheless, it was huge for its day: Think “horse & buggy” changeover to automobiles — and all the jobs lost & created by the change. Obviously, there were (and will be) winners and losers in any major upheaval. Funny thing though – people do seem to survive. Especially those who are forward thinking and embrace the inevitable changes…

  6. bessie Ludahl says:


  7. Richard Vannice says:

    You think that something like this won’t pinch bike riders? It takes heat (energy) to produce rubber, plastics and metals used in autos and bicycles.
    How about reducing driving? Has anyone given any thought to stop driving their children to school? There is a bus available in most cases and the cost for it’s operation is paid with taxes.
    Changes in ANYTHING and a trickle down effect on EVERYONE. “It takes a town to raise a child”, and it takes a world to change the problem.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “””Has anyone given any thought to stop driving their children to school?”””

      I sure have (though I never had kids). In addition to the savings of energy, cost, and time, I can’t think of a better and easier way to instill self-reliance in kids than having them make their own way to school, whether it be by walking, bicycle, or bus.

      Places with less car space and more non-motorized space are physically safer for kids. By having more kids on walkways and bikeways, you get social safety-by-numbers.

      Some ideas for dealing with existing cities:

  8. centrist says:

    The proposition gives 30 years to unwind 100+ years of development dependent on fossil fuel.
    It’s an admirable goal, but I don’t see the population joyfully following along.
    Let’s think about what’s affected.
    Agriculture— those tractors, combines, harvesters don’t run on wishes. Sure horses and scythes could be applied, but that technology won’t suppott current population.
    Paper— it’s a thermal-energy-intense industry. What’s made will be expensive. Be prepared for a bidet or a stick at the toilet.
    I’ll stop now

  9. HowlingCicada says:

    Perhaps the most-convincing reason to look for alternatives to our current car-dependent existence, is to avoid the need for seemingly draconian and absurd measures like this initiative.

    Oil should go into strategic reserves instead of fueling needless driving. Even if “global warming is a Chinese hoax,” oil will gradually get more expensive and difficult to obtain, to the point where our national security and world peace are seriously imperiled. The costs of other fossil fuels will also rise dramatically. This is a more rational re-statement of the somewhat-alarmist Peak Oil thing. It will still happen, perhaps not with the predicted bang, but with a long, slow, painful whimper.

  10. Ben says:

    What a fantasy. 30 years is a long time ago, in fact I graduated high school 30 years ago and I still drive a 25 year old V8 powered vehicle to pull my V8 gas powered ski boat to the lake. The average car on the road is 12 years old, and we have over 250 mmillion gasoline powered passenger cars on the road today. Not only do we not yet have anywhere near the manufacturing capacity to replace them in 30 years, we lack the natural resources to do so. The movie Mad Max is a more realistic future if this passes.

  11. J. Jacobson says:

    Both this writer and the author are correct. Doing nothing is the proper course of action. Inaction always seems safest. Attempting a correction, even if a bit misguided or Pollyannish, is foolish. The Status Quo is working for now. Why try to change?

  12. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    To see the complete text of the initiative:


    To see the names of the sponsors and other detailed info about Initiative Petition 50 to be voted on in 2020 if enough valid signatures are obtained:


    My only editorial comment is: Who cares? The world is going to end in 12 years according to climate expert AOC.


  13. KMP says:

    This is another one of those things that sound really cool but the reality is not well thought out. Most of the people in favor seem to think that this impacts only transportation. Park your car. Problem solved.

    Let’s assume you still want to eat. People have to farm. Electric farm equipment? And who is going to pay for that? Farming is a 24/7 occupation. Can a farmer take a day to bike to town for supplies and with what would they transport those supplies? How would they get the food to you?

    How about all the things we use every day that are made from some kind of fossil fuel product or byproduct? I challenge you to put your hand out and not touch something that is important to you, and does not have a plastic or some other synthetic component, most of those made with fossil fuel.

    All of the alternative energy sources have to be made with something. All the somethings either take, or are made from, some kind of fossil fuel or by-product.

    Are we going to go back to wearing only cotton, wool, or hemp? That takes us back to farming. Hope you know how to process these things by hand and sew.

    There is a reason life improved the way it did with the discovery of fossil fuels. If you want to go back to the way life was before the use of fossil fuels, be my guest. You test it first and let us know how it goes. YOU get rid of everything that has to do with fossil fuels and then you can teach us how to do it.
    No reason to wait. Put into practice now what you want to force on everyone else.

    • G B says:

      Good comment by KMP. Seems like Americans are so Intelligent we are ready to crash are society. No need to be afraid of carbon monoxide or guns. We will be busy digging graves by hand once you starve or freeze us to death Won’t be enough green power or materials for batteries. Any kind of energy man generates , generates pollution. ?

    • G B says:

      Seems like Americans are so Intelligent we are ready to crash are society. No need to be afraid of carbon monoxide or guns. We will be busy digging graves by hand once you starve or freeze us to death Won’t be enough green power or materials for batteries. Any kind of energy man generates , generates pollution. ?


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