A World without Oil

I’m no alarmist, but the prospect of the end of oil seems more real than ever, as this article from the Independent suggests.

There’s quite a bit out there about “peak oil.” I have to say that, believe it or don’t, it’s having an impact at the pumps. A friend and I were reminiscing today about the gas prices of yesteryear. When I went to college 15 years ago, gas was .87 a gallon. Just two years ago, the average gas price in Georgia (where I live) was $1.65. I paid $2.93/gallon this morning.

The implications of a significant shortfall or collapse of world oil markets cannot be ignored. The paper:

“In recent years the once-considerable gap between demand and supply has narrowed. Last year that gap all but disappeared. The consequences of a shortfall would be immense. If consumption begins to exceed production by even the smallest amount, the price of oil could soar above $100 a barrel. A global recession would follow.”

One might think the situation is not so dire, or that it won’t matter as much if we drive less or improve fuel economy (as the current energy bill proposes). If that’s you, consider the following facts, also from the article:

* A reduction of as little as 10 to 15 per cent could cripple oil-dependent industrial economies. In the 1970s, a reduction of just 5 per cent caused a price increase of more than 400 per cent.

* Most farming equipment is either built in oil-powered plants or uses diesel as fuel. Nearly all pesticides and many fertilisers are made from oil.

* Most plastics, used in everything from computers and mobile phones to pipelines, clothing and carpets, are made from oil-based substances.

* Manufacturing requires huge amounts of fossil fuels. The construction of a single car in the US requires, on average, at least 20 barrels of oil.

* Most renewable energy equipment requires large amounts of oil to produce.

* Metal production – particularly aluminium – cosmetics, hair dye, ink and many common painkillers all rely on oil.

So reducing our consumption in terms of automobiles is only part of the solution. The real solution is a dramatic change in our way of life, and a transformation of our current consumerist mindset to a conservationist one.



One thought on “A World without Oil”

  1. James Howard Kuntsler (http://www.kunstler.com/) writes in a couple of his books about how dependent we Americans are on our autos. Our cities are built for cars. We can’t even cross the road to get from one side of town to the other in many places because of elevated highways with concrete barriers. “Neighborhoods” are built miles from grocery stores. Would everyone starve if there was no gasoline?

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