when our world finally runs out of oil…

Oil is a finite resource, and if it runs out before we're ready, it will be a massive economic disaster, as a NatGeo doomsday scenario shows in grim detail.

oil rig on horizon
Oil rig in Cape Town Harbor, Clyde Thomas

Be afraid, be very afraid of the imminent day when Peak Oil becomes a reality. That’s the message of the new special on NatGeo TV which shows what would happen if all petroleum under the ground suddenly dried up. Say goodbye to reliable energy delivery, global commerce, fresh food in supermarkets, cars, civil rule, and the $4 a gallon gasoline that got us all riled up not too long ago would seem dirt cheap by comparison. We would face a world where everyone must become a farmer, blackouts are common, food would be scarce, hospitals would quickly run low on vital supplies, and famines would kill millions of people across the globe. While this is a rather hyperbolic scenario, it does a good job of illustrating how dependent we are on petroleum and how the end of fossil fuel extraction could spell a terrifying economic depression. And that’s precisely the point.

Now, as already noted, a trillion barrels of oil wouldn’t suddenly vanish into thin air overnight. Instead, it would be harder and more expensive to extract as time went on. After a while, we’d need to resort to extracting oil out of shale and sands. More and more diesel and flex fuel cars would need to hit the road, running on alternative fuels and gasoline diluted with more and more ethanol to keep prices at the pump manageable. Eventually, a fleet of fully functioning electric cars would be necessary to offset the growing prices of gas. Plastics would also become more and more expensive, and recycling would become a must.

But one day, the last few drops of commercially viable oil would make their way to the surface and a third of today’s energy needs wouldn’t be available to us anymore. Six months to a year after that, the last barrel of oil from strategic reserves would be used up. We have to be ready for the day that petroleum is no longer king so the switchover is as painless as possible and while our current fossil fuel of choice is done for the next 65 to 100 millions years, the world can just keep on going without missing a beat.

And this is exactly what many environmental advocates want. Rather than try to kill all industry, as a number of vocal right wing pundits love to declare at every opportunity, what they’re really trying to do is to make sure the modern business world doesn’t get hung up on fossil fuels and realizes that there’s going to be a future when today’s essential commodities will become scarce, so the sooner we have viable alternatives on the market, the longer oil supplies will last and the easier the big transition will be. And how could it possibly hurt us to go greenward and to adopt more and more solar, biofuels, tide power and nuclear technology, perhaps a fusion reactor or two when they’re up and running? The only things we would lose are our short-sightedness and a game plan the end game of which ultimately leads in a depletion of a vital resource.

# tech // alternative fuel / energy / environmentalism


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