So, just about everyone is coming around to the idea that we’re not going to have limitless crude Oil forever. To this revelation I say, Duh! There can only be so much of the stuff on the Globe, so, yes, it must eventually run out.
The fact is that we – as in Human Civilisation – may never actually run out of Oil, so much as what remains will be a luxury item that only those with wealth can afford.
Not to mention that, even today, most of the countries supplying Oil to the World are – at best – politically unstable, and – at worst – not friendly to the West.
They like the colour of our money, though, don’t they?
So what do we do? Fossil Fuels are by far the best stuff we’ve got for doing all sorts of things! We can make electric cars, we can convert power plants to nuclear or solar or whatever, we can heat our homes with wood (which, strangely, is now environmentally friendly) and we can do all manner of things to replace Oil in our daily lives.
Science is even making progress on “cracking” things like Glucose and Fructose into something resembling crude Oil, so that our existing processes and plastics can be made from sugar. I don’t want to see what that does to the cost of a bag of the stuff, but with the Ethanol craze I think we’ll find out anyway.
But there are some things for which an Oil replacement is very, very far off indeed.
Like running Jet Engines. Or powering huge Battle Tanks. Can you see where I’m going?
The very last drops of Oil on Earth will be reserved by the powerful to drive their machines of War. Their planes and tanks and helicopters and Humvees and so forth, because all the alternatives just aren’t as easy to use. Fuel comes in a can…arrays of solar panels do not.
So where does that leave sick people?
Did you know that every time you heard of a drug being “Synthesised”, that means they’ve figured out how to make it from Oil? Oil contains so many complex hydrocarbon molecules that it is more than the ideal source for the long-chain molecules that can be tailored into just about anything consisting of Hydrogen, Carbon and Whatever.
Everything you can think of – everything – from Aspirin to Viagra is made from Oil-based products. It’s not that natural alternatives (or, indeed, the original chemical) aren’t available, but they aren’t available in enough quantity to be useful to us. Either that, or they don’t exist in the wild and never did or it might have been produced from something that’s now endangered or protected or extinct.
Kerosene was originally refined from Oil to replace whale oil. Whale oil had become scarce and expensive, so people figured out how to take that black gunk and turn it into something that could be burned in a lamp. Voila! An Oil industry.
I find it interesting that Gasoline – now the most widely-used Oil product – was originally a by-product of Kerosene production. Automobile engines were made to use it because there was a surplus of it and it seemed it would always be that way. Funny stuff.
What I find funny is that the USA wants to have its cake and eat it, too. They’re spending hundreds of Billions of dollars in Iraq attempting to secure their supplies and, thus goes the reasoning, their lifestyle. And while they’re at that, they’re hoping that some magic thing will pop out of someone’s rear orifice to take the place of Oil. Because they sure aren’t investing in anything. I suppose they’re trying to get back to the Moon for Helium-3, so maybe they’re not all that bad.
Yes, they have thrown some money at Hydrogen power. I’m convinced they’ve gone this way because Oil companies still want to be able to sell you something. The bastards.
I’m pretty convinced that the answer to this whole mess is nuclear power. The dirty Fission type in the near term, and the clean Fusion type in the long term.
Yes, we’ll have to store the waste, but we can find a way to do that. I’d rather dig a tunnel 4 miles down to bury the stuff with a large machine than try to dig myself a hole to live in after the collapse of civilisation as we know it. And hey, that’s what we’re talking about here.
Research has already begun into jet aircraft that can run on electricity. There might even be some small ones in the air in the next few years. They’ll be small, unmanned drones, but it’s a start.
Let’s generate absolutely fantastic amounts of power using nuclear Fission/Fusion, desalinate all the water we want and farm Sugar Cane on the damn Sahara Desert. And while we’re at it, plant the Outback in Australia, too.
Bury the nuclear waste in huge granite formations in Canada, and let’s get on with our lives.