Vehicles are constantly vilified in the media, or at least so it would seem. Every day there is news about its impacts on the environment: air quality, greenhouse gases, and other effects. Another less mentioned but still valid crisis is that various forms of fossil fuels are not a renewable resource: humans use them at a rate much faster than the Earth produces it, and we will eventually run out of them.
This raises the question for the transportation industry as to when the Earth will run out of diesel fuel. The answer to that question is not simple, but we can do some predictive modeling to get a basic idea of the concept.
How Diesel is Made
At first, you might not care about how the fuel most commonly used in commercial vehicle applications is made, but understanding where diesel comes from is crucial to understanding how much we have left and makes the process of calculating much easier.
As we wrote in the differences between gasoline and diesel fuel, the fuel needs to be extracted from the crude oil mixture before it can be put to use in a diesel engine. A 42-gallon barrel of crude oil contains about 11 gallons of diesel each.
From this, we can find the amount of diesel fuel left by deriving the answer from the amount of crude oil left, then dividing it by 42 and multiplying it by 11. You can visualize this as us refining the numbers if it helps.
So How Much Diesel is Left?
In 2014, British Petroleum (BP) estimated that we had 1.688 trillion barrels of crude oil in the Earth, which they said should last humanity at least 53 years.
Using that number as our baseline, here are the estimates:
- At 1,688,000,000,000 barrels of crude oil, the Earth has 442,095,238,095 gallons of diesel fuel left.
- Assuming a mileage of 5.5 MPG, diesel fuel trucks have enough fuel left inside the planet to travel 2,431,523,809,524 miles.
- The estimate is enough to travel from the Earth to the sun and back again over 13,000 times.
- If humanity used the same amount of diesel every year for the 53 years predicted to have left, we use 7,964,061,096 gallons of diesel fuel a year.
- Annually, we use enough diesel to travel to and from Pluto, give or take as the distance changes over time, based off Earth and the dwarf planet’s respective orbits.
- Because it has been six years since the estimate by BP, we have roughly 392,046,720,574 gallons of diesel fuel left.
- These are all very conservative estimates, as fuel efficiency rises over time and companies find new sources of crude oil since 2014. Just a few decades ago, trucks averaged 2 to 3 miles per gallon, and it is possible that someday they will achieve ten miles per gallon.
While nobody can say for sure how much fuel is left on the planet (even industry experts from BP can get it wrong sometimes), the estimate ranges from “a lot” to “more than we will ever need in our lifetimes.” As fuel efficiency increases and alternative forms of fuel become increasingly popular, the horizon of running out of fuel for the greater commercial vehicle industry stretches out ever further.
There are arguments to be made about the trucking industry making the switch from diesel to alternative fuel sources, such as the cost per mile and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, but the supply of diesel fuel should not be one of them.
Even if the diesel fuel supply completely depleted by the year 2067, as BP suggests, its price will constantly rise as the supply slowly dwindles. This basic law of economics will motivate people to make the switch to another source such as electric power or natural gas (either compressed natural gas, liquified natural gas, or renewable natural gas).
Necessity is the mother of invention, so truck drivers should not worry about diesel fuel supplies any time soon. Whether you plan to stick with diesel engines for the foreseeable future or plan to make the transition to alternative fuels now, you can be sure you can get a fantastic deal on financing with TopMark Funding.
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