Opinion: Electric vehicles may be growing in popularity, but petrol is here to stay, says Woodhams

Grant WoodhamsGeraldton Guardian
A motorist refuels his car at a service station.
Camera IconA motorist refuels his car at a service station. Credit: DAN PELED/AAPIMAGE, DAN PELED

Regular readers of this column will know I have a certain fondness for cars, automobiles and vehicles of all shapes and sizes. I'm a bit of an old-school person generally, preferring the makes and shapes of the 1950s and 1960s rather than the almost anonymous lookalikes that parade up and down our roads today.

Admittedly, the modern car is far safer and much more efficient than its predecessors but it does share one major factor in common: most cars are still powered by petrol.

Despite the publicity and benefits proposed by electric vehicles, the great god of petrol continues to dominate the world of car manufacturing.

The petroleum industry is one of the most powerful and far-reaching the world has ever known.

Since the invention of the horseless carriage in the latter part of the 19th century, the use of petrol has been on the up and up.

The latest estimates put Australian use of petrol at 17,000,000,000 litres per year.

That's a lot of petrol! I imagine one day it will all be gone — all used up — and then maybe the electric car will have its day.

However, from what I have read it will be the big petrol companies and the big car manufacturers who decide when really to flick the switch on the electric car.

But that day might still be in the distant future, no matter the clamouring of environmentalists and those who say we are choking ourselves to extinction on the carbon monoxide generated by fossil-fuel engines.

Petrol didn't come along with the car.

It’s been around for about 300 million years.

Along with coal and natural gas, it’s one of the big three fossil fuels. Its first known use by man was in the ancient Middle East as a component of road building.

Many civilisations and societies used petrol and its derivatives for a range of uses, but it wasn't until the early 19th century it began to be sold.

Initially it was the medical and pharmaceutical industries that recognised its potential ... think of the expression “snake oil salesmen”.

Take a quick look at the world’s 10 largest companies. Five of them are oil and gas-based, and two of them are car manufacturers. Petrol, my friends, is not going away without a big fight.

Grant Woodhams is a media commentator and former member for Greenough and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails