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Look to Germany to see why wind and solar power won’t replace oil for decades to come

A Sun-Times editorial is wrong in arguing that renewable energy will reduce the need for oil imports.

“Wind and solar power provide no alternative for thousands of uses of petroleum that are essential and largely taken for granted,” writes the head of the Illinois Petroleum Resources Board. STNG AP

Last week, the Sun-Times editorial board wrote that “as renewable energy comes online, it will reduce the need for oil imports.” A look at what’s happened in Germany over the past decade proves that conclusion is specious at best.

No country has done more to phase out oil than Germany. But petroleum remains the country’s leading energy source — 35% of the energy mix — a decade after the implementation of its “Energiewende” policy. To meet continued strong demand, Germany imports 98% of the oil it consumes, primarily from Russia. Seventy-eight percent Germany’s energy needs are met by fossil fuels and, as Clean Energy Wire reports, “In the midst of the Energiewende, Germany relies still heavily on imports of fossil fuels.”

Germany is proof positive that renewable energy mandates do little, if anything, to reduce petroleum demand.

One reason is the fact wind and solar provide no alternative for the thousands of uses for petroleum that are essential and largely taken for granted. Fifty-five percent of petroleum demand is non-gasoline and 31% occurs outside the transportation sector. More than 6,000 everyday products, including dozens of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and tech gadgets such as smart phones, are largely petroleum-based. Petrochemicals are even needed to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and more than 70% of the typical electric car.

We are going to need a lot of oil for decades to come, and it’s better to produce as much of it here as possible rather than rely on other countries for the oil we need. This is not a “deceitful” argument, as the Sun-Times’ editorial board put it — it’s a simple fact.

Seth Whitehead
Executive Director
Illinois Petroleum Resources Board

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