The end of oil – part #1

Mar 21st
Posted by shambo  as Current Events, Future


(Author’s note: This is part #1 of a 3 part miniseries on what life might be like when we run out of oil)

Let me say this about that.

I was watching a TV program the other day on the Discovery Channel, or The Learning Channel, or one of those other  great escapes from mind-numbing network programming.  The program was a prognostication of what will happen when the world’s oil supply is depleted.  It was truly frightening. 

The most frightening aspect of this scenario is that the entire world, and the United States in particular, is totally oblivious to this eventuality – and – totally unprepared.  This educational program could has just as easily been called “The End of Life As We Know It”  or, in the worst case scenerio for some -“The End of Life – Period.” 

Most oil companies, OPEC, and oil experts agree that we have about 40 years of oil left in the ground.  This could possibly be…    extended a few years by conservation, and by investing in ‘hard-to-reach’ oil, as short supply raises prices and makes exploration of these areas profitable.  But, it only postpones the inevitable.  FACT:

“We’re going to run out of oil.”

No big deal, some might say.  Lets just build a piss-pot full of nuclear power plants and then all of us go out and buy ourselves an electric car.  Research into this option has shown that we would have to build approximately 10,000 nuclear power plants, world-wide, to supply the energy demand currently filled by oil.  To give you an idea of how daunting a task this would be, consider the current total number of nuclear power plants in the world is 436.  Not to mention having to allow some pretty scary countries like Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Libya access to nuclear fuel.

But those are not the biggest problems with nuclear power.  If we were to somehow actually be able to build 10,000 nuclear power plants within the 40 years of oil supply we have left, we would exhaust the worlds uranium reserves within 20 years. 

“Back To Square One”

Ah – but what about wind power?  Why don’t we build a piss-pot full of wind turbines and then all of us go out and buy ourselves an electric car?  This sounds like a pretty good idea.  That is until you do the math.  Using mega-watt equivalent generating capacity, it can be shown that it would take 7,000 average sized wind turbines to produce the equivalent electricity of an average sized nuclear power plant.  In other words, we need to erect 70,000,000 (Seventy Million !!!)  wind turbines within the next 40 years.  Building 1.75 million wind turbines per year for the next 40 years sounds like overkill – until you factor in the reality that the wind does not blow all the time in any given place.

Solar power?  The average house does not have adequate roof square footage to mount enough photo-voltaic cells to supply current electricity usage – even without the extra amount needed to re-charge our shiny new electric car.  Not to mention the grossly inadequate generating capability during winter months, inclement weather, in mountainous regions, and any place within the shadow of a high-rise.

“Back To Square One – Again”

Ethanol is another good idea – if you like to make the trade-off between using scarce farm land to grow ethanol producing plants like sugar cane, soybeans or corn – or grow something else like, oh say ……  “FOOD”.

I could go on with other, more obscure, energy producing technologies, but none can replace the energy producing capability of oil within the 40 years of supply we have left.  I don’t like to get too technical on this blog, so I will spell it out in layman’s language:

“If you are under 20 years of age, you’re basically screwed.”

And the end of oil won’t we pretty.  Oh sure, there will be major wars fought for the last few barrels, but in the end, it’ll all be gone anyway.  The real tragedy is that most of the deaths that will be caused by the end of oil will be starvation and disease, simply because there will be no way to transport food or medicines to the masses.  It may not be the end of mankind, but it sure as hell will be the end of life as we currently know it.

To quote poet T.S. Eliot:

“This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

(How did we get here? – in part #2)

And, that’s all I have to say about that.



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