Carbon-neutral petrol

In climate change discussions it is axiomatic that use of fossil fuels is evil, which is fair enough. But then imperceptably that morphs into “hydrocarbons are evil”, and ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles must all be swept away to leave only electric, and clearly anyone who ventures to suggest otherwise either works for an oil company or must be a bit loopy!

Fossil fuels are bad only because their combustion releases long-sequestered CO2 all at once. But what if petrol or diesel could be produced from CO2 already in the atmosphere, or in organic material, by some process using suitable catalysts and other energy sources such as solar or nuclear? The fuel would be carbon neutral then, even when combusted. So in principle, “hydrocarbon” need not be synonymous with “fossil”, even though it has been so until now.

Not being an industrial chemist, I don’t know if hydrocarbon production “from scratch” like that could ever be made efficient enough or in sufficient volume to be practical. But if so then it would have some advantages, and we could go on using petrol and the like as handy and fairly safe high-density fuels as they are now, with existing distribution channels and in engines whose efficiency has been honed for over a century with (I gather) further improvements possible.

Another advantage is that this would avoid soon having to manufacture literally billions of large electric batteries for vehicles, and keep reconditioning these and constantly manufacturing more, because this will cause massive pollution in itself, not to mention likely resourcing issues and squabbles for all the weird and wonderful rare earth elements required in them:

2021-11-04 Mining the Planet to Death: The Dirty Truth About Clean Technologies

So I wouldn’t be surprised if in 100 years there are large flotillas of oil tankers out in the Atlantic, with their decks covered in solar panels or surrounded by floating solar sheets, and busily churning out petrol, and ICE cars are still going strong!

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