Oil Industry Found to Have Been Blocking Green Technology Since the 1960s | Assessing the Impact on Transport and Construction

Mar 22, 2024

Recent investigations have revealed that the oil industry has lobbied lawmakers and blocked advancements in green technology going back as far as the 1960s.

Research carried out by the Guardian has found that organisations such as the American Petroleum Institution and FuelsEurope have been actively preventing the introduction and advancements of new technologies for over 50 years. This included solar panels, electric cars and heat pumps.

This will have understandably curtailed the world’s progress towards net zero targets and carbon neutrality but what would be the wider impact on transport, construction and society as a whole?

1967—API Protests Against Bill to Promote Development of Electric Cars

The earliest example of interference from the oil industry dates back to 1967 when the American Petroleum Institution sought to block a bill to promote the development of electric cars.

The API said that the government should “stimulate all efforts by industry to eliminate automotive pollution, rather than dedicate federal funds to the promotion of any single possible solution”.

Fast forward to 2005 and the API are still blocking a bill to support electric cars, arguing that they were not developed enough. With the API themselves preventing their development for over half a century, that may have had something to do with that.  

Back in the 60s, they were talking about letting “industry eliminate pollution”, so let’s further examine that statement and see how that panned out.

Currently, gas and oil companies account for only 1% of the total clean energy investments—according to a study by the International Energy Agency who describe the sector as a “marginal force at best”. This is being quite generous to the industry as 1% is next to nothing when your industry may be the chief cause of most of the issues we are faced with.

So the industry has not really eliminated pollution as they described it, although the API would perhaps argue that was down to insufficient “stimulation” from the Government. 

In defence of the Government, all their efforts at stimulation seem to have been blocked by the same industry that was recommending they should take care of everything.

Is Corporate Influence on the Government Always a Bad Thing?

Of course, The Guardian reporting focuses on a climate change angle to the story, and rightly so as the world’s efforts to reach net zero and carbon neutrality will have been directly affected by this approach and possibly set back years or even decades—climate change could now be an old disaster story of something that was averted and dealt with long ago in the 80s perhaps.

It is important to remember that with the large profits associated with oil and gas industries, there comes a significant amount of power and influence. Certain political parties will be funded heavily by these industries and when they get into power it is important for them to keep them sweet and to continue getting the funding they receive each year. 

Of course, with any large-scale enterprise, this will be the case and if you look at Disneyland and its impact on politics in Florida it is clear that they have a large sway and perhaps rightly so due to the amount of economic growth and jobs that Disney brings into the state.

Disneyland alone generated $40 billion in economic impact across Florida and more than a quarter of a million total jobs in 2022, according to a study from Oxford Economics.

In US politics there has been some back and forth between the Trump-styled De Santis the Governor of Florida and the Disney corporation. Before dropping out of the race DeSantis was looking to gain victory over Trump in the Republican nominees for the upcoming presidential election and, during which, as a means to gather supporters, was engaged in what could be described as “tough talk” with Disney.

The result of this was some new development and several million jobs being axed and moved to California by Disney in a classic biting-the-hand-that-feeds-you scenario.

Of course, if a large-scale enterprise wants additional freedom to be able to expand its business and bring more profits and jobs into your area, this is not necessarily a bad thing and allowing a business entity such as this a certain amount of political influence is not necessarily a shady or somehow unfair deal, provided the citizens’ needs are not being overlooked.

However, when this corporate influence over the Government and political processes is used to curtail technological advancement, this is a different matter and much more significant to the human race than perhaps a short article in The Guardian newspaper can do justice, whilst being accurate and well researched in itself.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that these are powerful organisations in terms of their money and influence—if they want to block something, it gets blocked.

Wider Impact on Transport and Society

Of course, electric cars seem like a relatively new thing that has just become popular in the last few years and only on the market over the last decade or so. However, organisations such as FuelsEurope have been fighting against the adoption of electric vehicles for over ten years and the API have been blocking them since 1967. 

In order to make some assessment as to the wider impact of the curtailing influence of the oil industry, we need to go back to the 1960s and forget about all the technology that came along since then. To understand the true effects of this we would need to take another alternate path through history, one in which the oil industry had not blocked these developments.

With electric cars being such a recent development it is hard to imagine them being introduced in the 60s. However, even if it had taken several years to develop and bring to market, they could have been in commercial use as early as the 70s, if their plans had not been blocked in ‘67.

What Comes After?

You could be forgiven for thinking that electric cars would now have been in operation since then and wonder at the benefits to our environment that would bring.

However, technology does not remain stagnant in that way, as we all know—it moves along remarkably quickly when there is a commercial or military need for such technology, or better technology than your rivals.

How far along have video games come since the days of Space Invaders 40 years ago? Think how much better electric cars or driverless vehicles are now in comparison to when they first became available only a few years ago.

With that in mind, it is important to ask what would have come next, if electric cars were invented and in use around the 70s when they were initially planned to be brought out.

Would they have moved towards a better alternative in the 80s and started driving hydrogen-powered cars or maybe have developed nuclear-powered vehicles until they realised that was too dangerous?

In their attempts to reduce the risk associated with nuclear or hydrogen vehicles, this could have propagated an increased drive towards something like nuclear fission, which could have been powering cars by the 90s for all we know. 

Of course, if you take our current method of transport and supplant that into the 70s then the resulting later-stage vehicles, whether they were powered by some hydrogen technology or nuclear fission or whatever it was, this would in turn, have had knock-on effects towards other industries and aspects of society. 

For example, commercial use of say hydrogen or even nuclear fission-powered vehicles in the 90s could have sparked a new wave of space exploration. With better, cheaper, more efficient and sustainable ways of travelling long distances, our advancement in terms of the space race could be way ahead of our current position.

As we moved out further into the galaxy from the 90s up until now, who knows what technology we would have adopted by this stage. If those oil industry tycoons had not got their grubby mitts on the plans for development, we could have been scooting around using some advanced form of wormhole travel by now.

Even if electric cars were deemed to be the best form of travel from the 70s up until now, we would certainly have a very high standard of electric car if they had been in production for over 50 years.    

Impact on Construction Industry

Solar panels saw a rise in popularity from 2008–2013 in particular although they were first commercially available in the 80s. They were not invented in the 80s, however, and it may be surprising to know that modern photovoltaic solar panels were first invented in 1954 and the original idea goes back to 1881.

So why the hold-up and what has been keeping them back for so long if they first came out in the 50s? Again the oil industry and the American Petroleum Institution rears its ugly head, blocking legislation that would have seen the introduction of solar powers as early as the 1960s.

In 1975 the API also blocked legislation that would have provided tax credits for heat pumps in homes. 

More recently, according to Oil Change International in 2015 oil companies “spent $11 million on successfully killing a provision in California’s SB 350 climate bill to halve petroleum use by 2030.”

Coal-burning power companies also have a hand in the stifling of green technology by, for example, penalising customers who install rooftop solar panels with higher-priced electricity in an effort to make the technology unviable.

It seems at any point in time over the last 50 years or so, there is clear evidence of fossil fuel-based industries attempting to curtail the advancement of renewable technology or block provisions that would subsidise their use.

If solar panels were first introduced when they were invented in 1954, by now it could be commonplace for any home or building to be built with solar photovoltaic technology in place, or some advanced form of this concept.

If the panels themselves were around back in the 1950s, by 2024 we could have moved onto some other method of construction where maybe the entire roof section was made of solar PV materials.

With the rooftops of an entire city acting as a generator of electricity, it may have been the case where the need for traditional power plants was made redundant, following the early adoption of this technology.

Certainly, the world of construction, power production, and our efforts towards carbon neutrality would have looked a lot different if solar panels had been commercially available in the 1950s when they were first invented.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, it seems that the oil/gas industry and specifically the API have a lot to answer for when it comes to negatively impacting the advancement of technology and the evolution of society as a whole.

Their motives have mostly been centred around greed and self-preservation on the face of it. 

They have prevented emerging and arguably more advanced technologies from taking hold and replacing their own industries, at considerable cost to scientific breakthroughs on a global scale.

Oil and gas industries have publicly claimed to be helping with the fight against climate change, whilst in reality investing very little in green technology and actively fighting against its introduction and widespread use.

It is difficult to accurately predict what sort of technologies and advancements would have come down the line if our current use of solar panels and electric cars had been transported back into the 50s and 60s when they would have been initially adopted.

As this is more or less present technology, the best way to look at it is to imagine what sort of vehicles and tech would be around in 2074, fifty years from now. 

Whatever kind of Fifth Element-style flying rocket car you are imagining would be similar to the transport option we would have today, if the oil and gas industry had not purposefully set us back around fifty years in a bid to secure its own future. 

Contact Lyon Tech 

Thankfully, not all advanced technology has been held back by those notorious oil tycoons, and especially not for our clients in construction and a wide range of industries that require state-of-the-art technology to improve their business processes.

At Lyon Tech, we provide our customers with high-end technological solutions to manage any construction, architectural, engineering, or tech-focused industry with ease.

Our range of solutions includes

  • Remote Working Setup

  • Secure Cloud Storage

  • Virtual Workstations

  • VoIP Communications

  • Cybersecurity Monitoring and Analysis

  • IT Governance

  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

  • Vulnerability and Patch Management

  • 24/7 Help Desks and IT Support

If you are looking to enhance your business processes and improve competitiveness and service levels by leveraging the use of state-of-the-art technology, contact our expert advisors today.

We can take you through the range of options and setup requirements, whether you are shifting towards a fully remote environment or just looking for a technological boost when it comes to securing your business and improving efficiency.

For any questions with regards to technological solutions for businesses, get in touch with Lyon Tech today and we will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.