Preparing for an World Without Oil
For Rob, By Maus
My interest “A World Without Oil”. I am curious as to how we would survive if we couldn't use oil anymore, or if it was extremely, extremely expensive. This is not so unlikely, and we have a few technologies developing- though some oil experts (For example, Peter Hubert, author of The Bottomless Well) suggest we still have “over 100 years” until we run out of oil. It is a commonplace thing in our society to exaggerate. Take for example “bottomless well”... Peter Hubert says that we are only running out of cheap oil. Even if this is the case, we will eventually run out, even if it is in 100 years- and before that, prices will rise astronomically, and then we will have another bit of expensive to produce oil as exorbitant prices that will also not last forever. Great... then where does that leave us? Hubert does reluctantly admit that oil is indeed a finite resource, but points out that the sun is also finite. I think this comparison is ridiculous. The sun will last another 5.5 billion years, the expensive to refine oil in Alberta will last about 100 years. When this is pointed out to him, he says: “Look, 100 years from now, one thing I'm sure of is things will be very different.
Let's talk about oil... Let's use one liter of oil for comparison. For visionary purposes, imagine half a bottle of large pop.
One liter of oil:
- 8 carbon, 20 hydrogen
- distilled over 100,000 million years
- energy dense, easy to refine
- energy of about 5 weeks of human manual labour, 35 strong people
- you can turn it into medicine, clothing, laptops...
- we have based our whole way of life around it
- for every 4 barrels of oil we consume, we discover 1
That leaves us very vulnerable, doesn't it?
So what can we do? We can immediately start to use and discover new alternative sources for energy, hopefully renewable ones, so that we can slow the use of our current oil supply and hopefully prepare ourselves for a world without oil, even if that happens to be in two hundred years.
What can we do to reduce consumption?
-buy and grow local food. 90% of oil is used for transportation!
-invest in community owned energy companies
-promote and practice recycling
Another thing I am interested in is alternative energy. Costa Rica is a great inspiration as a 99% carbon neutral country. 81% of their energy comes from hydroelectricity, 10% is geothermal, 7.7% thermal, 1.1% wind and 0.2% other. Obviously not every country is built with the ability to be as self sustainable as Costa Rica. But, they have created man-made lakes for hydroelectric purposes, which and country with enough room and the right environment to do. This is just one example.
Other alternative energy sources:
Let's focus on the advantages/disadvantages of each of them, along with a short summary
-Low environment impact
-Useful energy created
-Smaller models depend on availability of running water
-Only can be built in certain areas
-They can run out
-Trace amounts of chemicals released in hot water
-High initial costs
-20% failure rate can cause damage to environment
-No fossil fuels
-Take up little space individually
-Technologies are becoming more efficient
-Wind is free
-Can be combined with solar energy
-Can be built anywhere on large plots of land
-Cannot rely on the wind to always be there
-Minimal environmental impact
-Available throughout world
-Helps in solid waste management
-Could contribute to global warming
-Small scale, net loss of energy due to energy needed to grow plants
-The sun won't explode for at least 5.5 billion years.
-Does not require fuel
-Can be put anywhere
-Influenced by clouds, night
-Solar cars are much slower
"There is a cheap, plentiful supply of energy available for the taking," he says, and we won't run out of it for billions of years. "It's called sunlight." - David Goodstein
I think these alternative sources, if implemented as much as possible, could help to diverge some of the “impending doom” of running out of oil. Unfortunately we don't have any long term magic that is suddenly going to save us, but if we start working on it sooner rather than later (as Hubert suggests), we might not be let cold, naked and helpless The Day The Oil Runs Out Forever. We cannot have the attitude of “who knows when that might be though? Not in our life time... so who cares?” because even if it isn't YOUR life, it's your children, or your children's children's world that are relying on you.