How Can We Use Less Fossil Fuels?

It's too soon to say how much people will embrace ultra-fuel-efficient cars or ones that don't need traditional types of power at all.

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
article image
by Unsplash/Dan Meyers

In a previous post on this site, I discussed current fossil fuel usage and future trends. One of the ongoing trends on the horizon seeks to reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Here are some ways to start achieving that aim:

Fuel Efficiency Reduces Oil Usage

Analysts say fuel-efficient cars have a substantial effect on reducing the demand for oil. Demographics and driving patterns play a role as well, but automakers continually make vehicles with better fuel efficiency, which results in less reliance on fossil fuels.

Also, an analysis published in 2018 by Morgan Stanley analysts forecast a decline in oil demand due to several things, such as increased ride-sharing and electric vehicles, along with fuel economy requirements.

If people are serious about using less oil, one practical thing they can do is invest in cars that use different fuel sources, such as electricity. In the United Kingdom, the government plans to introduce a green license plate scheme whereby people who have electric cars can avail of perks, including free parking.

What if a car got its power from the sun? A Californian company recently released a prototype for a solar-powered car that can go up to 40 miles per day and never needs charging.

It’s too soon to say how much people will embrace ultra-fuel-efficient cars or ones that don’t need traditional types of power at all. But, engineers are working hard to give the option to individuals who are ready and eager to use fewer fossil fuels.

Plastic Alternatives Could Reduce Oil Requirements

Statistics estimate that 8-10% of the total oil supply goes towards making plastics, which totals approximately 12 million barrels to make the plastic bags used in the United States alone. But, for more than a decade, scientists have made progress in creating plastics without oil. They use a variety of creative approaches, such as making it from a chemical found in pine needles to relying on sugar and carbon dioxide instead of crude oil.

These possibilities are fascinating and give a glimpse into how some of the most familiar materials people use today may get more eco-friendly. We need to be realistic about the scalability of innovations, too. Most won’t come into widespread use right away, and the demand for oil is still strong.

Data from the International Energy Agency expects global oil demand to increase by 1.4 million barrels per day throughout 2019. It’s not feasible to expect any new material to immediately replace plastics that need crude oil. So, when people wonder, “How can we use less fossil fuels?” they should keep in mind that the practical way forward is to be open and supportive of sustainable replacements while continuing to use conventional plastics.

Goat-Grazing Services Offer an Unconventional Way to Reduce Fossil Fuels

People don’t think of changing their lawn-care habits as a way to make a dent in fossil fuel usage. However, whether from mowing or the excessive use of fertilizer, lawn care has a larger carbon footprint than many expect. It’s understandable why households want beautiful-looking lawns. They increase the curb appeal of homes and help families take pride in where they live.

Mowing the lawn is time-consuming, noisy and uses fossil fuels. Some companies offer an alternative by providing goat-for-hire services. The grazing animals munch away in a customer’s yard for a day, then leave.

Estimates say that 38 goats could tackle 50,000 square feet of grass in a day. Plus, they typically prefer types of grass that people consider weeds. That means even in a short time, they can make noticeable differences.

Refusing to Support Fossil Fuel Projects or Companies Could Have an Impact

Another ongoing trend among sustainably-minded individuals is the divestment of fossil fuel companies. That means ceasing their investments to no longer associate with those enterprises. In 2014, the number of institutional investors that committed to removing fossil fuel stocks from their portfolios was less than 200. The figure now totals more than 1,100, statistics indicate.

One of the main goals for divestment is to make fossil fuel companies realize that times are changing, and they need to increase their investments in renewables.

Similarly, about 1,000 engineers and 90 organizations in Australia signed a pledge to weigh all future projects against the need to mitigate climate change. Some parties there fear a revolt against coal-based initiatives or think it’ll become more difficult to find engineers to do required work.

The engineering professionals who decided to become choosier about which projects they take on believe that the engineering sector at large can play a defining role in stimulating future change. Otherwise, they’ll continue to promote the use of fossil fuels.

Being Mindful of Vampire Energy Makes a Difference

Vampire energy is the power consumed by an appliance when it’s off, such as while in standby mode. Statistics say that more than 100 billion kilowatt-hours of vampire energy gets wasted in the U.S. alone. This translates to nearly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent of the emissions from 15 million cars annually.

Considering that a significant segment of electricity used in the U.S. still comes from fossil fuels, keeping tabs on vampire energy and the appliances that use it makes a difference for people who want to cut down on their fossil fuel dependence. The easiest thing to do is to unplug gadgets when they’re not needed. Relying on power strips for multiple appliances in the same area also helps because it regulates the power flow.

Intentional Actions Are Valuable

Here, we’ve covered some practical responses to the “How can we use less fossil fuels” question. They aren’t the only things people can do to reduce their fossil fuel usage, but they’re practical ways to get started on that goal.

People should remember that when enacting positive changes, it’s best to pick a few meaningful things to do and stick with them. Encouraging friends to follow suit is beneficial too.


Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on ProductivityTheory.com. You can read all of Kayla’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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