The Internal Combustion Engine is Alive and Well

Recent analyses forecast that oil use, primarily gasoline, will peak anywhere from the early 2020s to as late as 2040. The basis for this forecast are government actions to compel a reduction in mobile source CO2 emissions and a transition to EVs. While these forecasts may prove accurate, there are reasons to apply a reasonable dose of pessimism that EVs will lead to a reduction in gasoline powered vehicles..

Climate change alarmism is predicated on the belief that the consumption of fossil fuels and the resulting increase in CO2 emissions is causing serious climate change that will only worsen. This belief is based primarily on the results of complex computer models that have been shown time and again to overstate actual warming, and hence the effect of atmospheric CO2 levels. Since 1998, actual global temperatures have not increased in lock step with increases in CO2 levels and even the IPCC has lowered its estimate of climate sensitivity. While none of this has so far had an effect on government policies outside of the US, at some point reality will make denial and the cost of it unacceptable.

So, absent more compelling evidence on anthropogenic climate change or a significant break though in EV technology the pressures to transition from the internal combustion engine (ICE) should subside and the ICE will continue to have a bright future.

Advances in vehicle and fuel technologies will lead to further reductions in tail pipe emissions, including CO2, and to further increases in fuel efficiency and economy. Those advances include direct injection, cylinder deactivation, variable valve timing, more turbo charged engines, greater use of sensors and computers to manage engines and better aerodynamics. It is estimated by some that ICE efficiency could reach 50%.

There are about 7.5 billion people in the world with 1.1 billion in developed countries. World wide there are about 1.2 billion on road light duty vehicles—gasoline powered. Almost one-half of those are in the US and Europe. As the emerging and developing economies grow, so will the demand for mobility. That will lead to a higher penetration rate of ICE powered vehicles. If the ownership rate reaches one half the US/Europe rate in the next two decades, about 1.5 billion vehicles would be added to the global fleet.

Economic development around the globe and advances in technology explain why EIA and HIS Markit project that ICEs will still be the consumers choice in 2040.


Founder and president of Solutions Consulting which focuses on public policy issues, strategic planning, and strategic communications.

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