I support the alternative energy industry wholeheartedly. I know what you must be thinking. I'm a lunatic leftist, tree-hugging, environmentalist kook, hell-bent on destroying the oil industry while peddling fairy tales of global warming.
Well, I admit, I'm no fan of the oil industry.
Yet, my distaste for their behavior has little to do with the environment or global warming.
My reasoning runs deeper and, at the same time, is far simpler. We will run out of oil someday.
This is not a matter for debate, such as the causes of global warming or whether it even exists.
No, there is no debate about the fact that we will run out of oil.
The problem with that is our whole society depends on it. Byproducts requiring crude oil include everything from pesticides, to makeup, to electronics. It doesn't just fuel our cars; it's also in our tires. Products that rely on oil surround us, whether we are at home or at work. Everything we buy in stores was brought closer to us by oil. It's hard to imagine a world without it. In all fairness, oil has been very good to us. Since Edwin Drake's oil well was built in nearby Titusville, Pa., oil has allowed for huge advances in technology, communication, infrastructure, and an overall improvement in the way we live. Oil has been the driving factor behind most if not all of the global economic growth of the last century. But, we are extracting it faster than the earth can replenish it. It doesn't take a mathematician to understand that we will eventually run out.
I don't write this to create a sense of panic, or to incite fear. Truth is it's really hard to tell how much oil we have left or how long it will last us. The time frame for depletion will depend on future demand. In other words, how much we choose to use and how much we conserve and the growth of the global population. The question of how much is left is equally complicated. Misinformation from oil companies, foreign governments, OPEC, and other vested interests makes it all but impossible to get an accurate answer. All these groups have reasons for both overstating and underestimating their supplies, usually economically or politically influenced.
Denial of the fact that we will eventually run out is equivalent to sticking our heads in the Canadian tar sands. Rather than setting the problem aside for the future, we need to be working to solve the problem now. The Bakken field fueling the oil boom in North Dakota may contain 30 billion barrels, or enough to meet the U.S. demand of 7.5 billion per year for only 4 short years. We need to find other sources of energy that do not require finite resources. We need to find other ways to produce and transport the products we now produce and transport using fossil fuels. Drilling here and drilling now is a very short-term solution to a very long-term problem. It's about as short-sighted as one can be. The constant extraction of fossil fuels only gets us closer and closer to the moment of depletion. And, as we get closer to depletion, the cost of extraction will continue rise. Deep water wells are not cheap. Just ask BP. Millions upon millions of dollars need to be invested in each oil rig years in advance of the extraction of the first drop of oil from each well.
Solving the issue with alternative energy sources is only a partial solution.
It will also involve restructuring the way we live and the way our economy functions.
As transportation costs increase, it will become economically advantageous to produce the food and goods that we require closer to our places of residence. Some things that we now enjoy will one day be economically out of reach. So, we will also need to learn to live with less. This isn't all bad news.
As the costs of oil based transportation of goods increases, more and more of these goods will need to be produced closer to home, likely meaning more jobs near home.
If we understand that fossil fuels are finite, it is time to invest in finding viable alternatives to the vast array of goods and services that currently depend on them.