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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Can we have an Oil-less Society?

Quite simply no. Oil is used to make plastic, tires, roads, pesticides, and fertilizer.

The good news is that we are not running out of oil. We are running out of cheap oil. We will need oil for the forseeable future, what societies need to do is remove oil usage from our trucks and cars, and possibly our planes and ships.

It can be done with current levels of technology. But it will take immense work on the part of governments everywhere.

Our final goal as developed nations should be societies that get their power from renewable resources like wind and sun, and we should charge our cars with electricity from these renewable resources, charging from our homes and community chargers. It's really the only way.

Fission isn't the solution. Hydroelectric isn't the solution, though we should continue to depend on those sources, just not build anymore. Natural gas isn't the solution because like oil it will soon have a peak production point. Coal isn't the solution because it will increase global warming.

Essentially western governments knew of this coming (now arrived)dilemma. They chose another route, a route that consisted of militarily taking over most of the oil producing areas of the world. This route it turned out is in fact the more costly route. Oil production has fallen considerably in the Middle East since the Iraq invasion.

The above scenario I laid out with renewable energy sources creating power for society still has oil in it. It's just that the oil consumption is much lower. Trucks may still run on oil, I just don't have the information yet as to whether or not ethanol based fuel can be used to run them. But with current technology we can take oil out of the commuter's hands, and give it to the truck driver, the farmer, and the industrialist. It has to be done. It will mean the end of the car as we know it, the end to the rumble we are used to of an engine starting in our driveway and an end to the familiar smell of burning gasoline. But these smells and sensations end in every other scenario as well, where gasoline is so expensive no one can afford it.

I think there is a slight chance that the market will work in such a way as to force consumers into electric cars. But companies are run by humans, and humans make mistakes. General Motors in the face of peak oil has just released brand new full size SUVs and pickups for the US market. It is this insanity that makes me realize that government will have to step in at some point and guide wayward corporations to profitability through either a bail out, or laws mandating certain types of production.

Now all that's left is for brave leaders to step forward and give the finger to the oil industry, and start courting the power industry as its replacement.

Comments:
There is alot of activity around the oil shale in the West.

http://austinbay.net/blog/?p=597


If this works out, "peak oil" will go the way of the EV1.
 
Not really. At best what could happen at current levels of technology is that the price of gas will stabilize at 5-6 dollars a gallon, which would still be jarring. But because these super hurricanes are likely caused by global warming, if peak oil is beaten temporarily, Americans will continue to pollute and warm the waters of the gulf, which will make for huge storms every year. These huge storms will destroy our refining capability, and ability to take in shiploads of oil which will still rise the price of gasoline. They've been saying oil shale is the cure for more than a decade now, so its track record isn't the strongest. Peak oil might be a blessing in disguise if it reduces pollution.
 
Rick I can see you are pasionate about this, but what about lubrication? Also, I don't see a move away from petrolium based fuels as the "end of cars as we know them." What about Bio Diesel and other alternative renewable sources? What about Hydrogen?

I know that in the US at least, we will not give up easily the freedom that the car allows. While in Europe where public transportation is a more viable alternative, cars can be reduced, I don't think many will want to give up the freedom either.

Interesting post from the "Autoguy" sounding the death of the car, I guess being in London has changed your perspective. I don't see a total loss of dependance on petrolium, I do hope for a lower use via alternative energy sources. I've never been a believer in fully electric cars, the electricity must come from somewhere, and right now that's petro powered generating plants ( or coal powered) and the range is still too short and performance too slugish.

I believe that young people like yourself must push for new cleaner renewable sources of energy, but I don't believe we will ever be free of some level of dependance on petrolium.
 
Big Ford: plug-in hybrids will bridge the gap. See Calcars.org
 
Big Ford Fan--

I do not think that the end of the car is coming at all. I think there will be less reliance on the car simply because it is expensive. However we have millions of miles of roads we've built, so we will continue to use a product we have invested trillions of dollars in.

You are right, I overlooked lubrication. But my point remains, that we will always be using oil, just in much smaller amounts. Oil is great for a lot of things, but it is terrible to use in engines because it pollutes and is wasted. Oil that is used as lubrication is recycled, in fact the oil you put in your car is probably recycled oil. When you get an oil change, they take the used oil and ship it to recyclers.

The future of the car, at least the immediate future is smaller and more fuel efficient. Until we switch to a fuel that is abundant, we will not see large vehicles for years to come.
 
Large vehicles are useful and will not go away, though they'll almost certainly lose market share. There'll be fewer households with multiple large SUVs/trucks. GM's new full size trucks include more efficient diesels and transmisssions so they should be competetive.

If Shell's claim that they can make money at $30/bl is anywhere close to accurate, current or somewhat lower prices are likey for a long time. I don't expect fuel prices to stabilize at $5 or above unless governments raise taxes.
 
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