( A Six minute read)
It’s easy to pick the dominant environmental issue of the last decade. It has been the issue of climate change and what—if anything—the countries of the world can do to limit, or reduce, carbon dioxide emissions.
It took hundreds of millions of years to create the world’s oil reserves.
It took less than a century before oil became the commodity on which world power turned and it was little more than a century before fears were raised that we would run out of oil.
Day in, day out, human beings are dependent upon it more than any other resource—and yet most rarely think about it.
For instance, most plastics are derived from oil. The medications taken by millions of people requires oil to produce.
Today, producing, distributing, refining and retailing oil is the single largest industry, in terms of value, on earth! Yet, like most, you probably give little if any thought to the black liquid.
So the world needs to come to a common understanding that:
- The alternative energy is not mature enough to replace fossil sources any time soon.
- Energy security means a diversified and balanced portfolio inclusive of every bit of resource, fossil as well as renewables, just to meet the projected demand. No single form of energy will be able to entirely replace it.
- Real “green” energy is easier said than done.
- Gold and Oil are the commodities most heavily invested in by Hedge Funds.
Oil is a nonrenewable, finite resource.
What if there were no more oil?
What if the lifeblood of modern civilization stopped flowing?
The global economy would collapse in a heap of ruin—and fast! Life as we know it would come to an end. All the everyday items made from oil would no longer be produced. Virtually all transport would stop, and so would nearly all manufacturing. Scores of millions would be unemployed. Millions in colder climates would freeze. Food production would come to a grinding halt. Scores of millions would starve to death because 99.99…% of people don’t have the faintest grasp of the historical technology required to revert to a pre-oil era.
So where there used to be a strong link between economic growth and the increasing demand for oil, is that link now being broken by alternative energy sources.
Many are touting a number of alternative forms of energy as potential replacements to oil.
The key rationale for reducing petroleum consumption lies in the fact that the market price does not account for its full social cost: the negative externalities or consequences associated with petroleum use-such as greenhouse gas emissions and national security issues-are not incorporated in the market prices.
But is all of this true.
Biofuels: Corn-based ethanol.
A biofuel-gasoline mixture is already being used in many automobiles. Making biofuels requires large amounts of land. If these fuels were to become the “new oil,” nations would face a choice between growing crops for food and growing crops for fuel, as there is not enough cultivable land on earth to satisfy man’s need for both.
More carbon dioxide is actually released through biofuels than gasoline.
Hydrogen is a non-polluting alternative fuel. Hydrogen fuel cells directly convert the chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity and release water and useful heat as by-products. Hydrogen fuel cells are pollution-free and have greater efficiency than traditional combustion technology.
The most abundant element in the universe but, it does not occur naturally as a gas in the Earth it is quite expensive to produce.
The systems used for delivering gasoline from refineries to gasoline stations cannot be used for hydrogen.
NASA is the primary user of hydrogen resources for its space program.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are currently very expensive than conventional vehicles or any hybrids.
Is efficient and clean, but the more reactors that are in use around the world, the more likely a nuclear disaster will occur.
Is an atomic reaction in which multiple atoms combine to create a single, more massive atom. The long allure of nuclear fusion is simple: clean, safe, limitless energy for a world that will soon house 10bn energy-hungry citizens. But despite 60 years of research and billions of dollars, the results to date are also simple: it has not delivered.
The world record for fusion power – 16MW – was set in 1997 at the JET reactor in the UK. The longest fusion run – six minutes and 30 seconds – was achieved at France’s Tore Supra in 2003.
The world needs to know if this technology is available or not.
Solar and wind power:
Are unlikely to produce enough energy to match that of oil.
New motor technologies:
Electric or Fuel cell cars to expensive.
So where are with energy.
Here’s the bottom line:
Renewables will remain niche players in the global energy mix for decades to come. The past—and the foreseeable future—still belong to hydrocarbons. And we can expect natural gas, the cleanest of the hydrocarbons, to garner a bigger share of the global energy pie in the near term and in the long-term.
Most alternative technologies rely on rare earths for efficiency.
However, the radioactive waste produced by rare earths mining process makes oil sands look like a green energy. This overlooked (or ignored) fact just now received some attention due to the sudden shortage caused by China’s embargo and export quotas on rare earths.
It Will Take 131 Years To Replace Oil, And We’ve Only Got 10.
Carbon dioxide emissions will continue rising because hundreds of millions of people are transitioning to a modern lifestyle, complete with cars, TVs, and other manufactured goods.
Renewable sources like wind and solar have their virtues, but they cannot compare with hydrocarbons when it comes to economics. If renewable sources of energy were dramatically cheaper than hydrocarbons, then perhaps we could be more optimistic about their ability to capture a larger part of the global energy mix. But even if that were true, a wholesale change in our energy mix will take a long time.
There is one thing all energy transitions have in common: they are prolonged affairs that take decades to accomplish.
If petroleum didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. Nothing else comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, flexibility, convenience, cost, or scale. Electric vehicles may be the celebrity car du jour, but modern batteries are only slightly better than the ones that Thomas Edison developed. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium-ion batteries.
The entire global economic foundation is still built upon oil.
However China and India are among those facing major problems with urban air pollution.
We can talk about wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen, and lots of other forms of energy production. But the question that too few people are willing to ask is this one: Where, how, will we find the energy equivalent of 25 Saudi Arabia’s and have it all be carbon-free?
The hard reality is that we won’t.
We need a simpler measure for global energy use, which now totals about 241 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. That sum is almost impossible to comprehend, but try thinking of it this way: It’s approximately equal to the total daily oil output of 29 Saudi Arabia’s.
Furthermore, over the past decade alone, global energy consumption has increased by about 27 percent, or six Saudi Arabia’s. Nearly all of that new energy came from hydrocarbons.
Scientists and policymakers can claim that carbon dioxide is bad but here is no urgency for an accelerated shift to a non-fossil fuel world: The supply of fossil fuels is adequate for generations to come; new energies are not qualitatively superior; and their production will not be substantially cheaper.
The supply chain required to run a modern society is oil.
The inability to lubricate moving parts to have no power the Internet and most technological development based on it (the “Internet of Things”) would cease to exist.
Most world currencies would collapse. Over 90% of
U.S. dollars exist electronically;
with no electricity to power the computers that track
these financial transactions and balances, most
records of ownership would be unavailable for the
Within a couple of weeks all the food in the cities would
be exhausted. Mass unemployment,
all the trees will probably be chopped down to
make coal to make energy.
Energy is too important for its development to continue in such a random manner. Thus society seems to be caught in a dilemma unlike anything experienced in the last few centuries.
Despite many claims to the contrary—from oil and gas advocates on the one hand and solar advocates on the other—THERE IS no easy solution to these issues.
If any resolution to these problems is possible it is probable that it would have to come at least as much from an adjustment of society’s aspirations for increased material affluence and an increase in willingness to share as from technology.
Unfortunately recent political events do not leave us with great optimism that such changes in societal values will be forthcoming. With Donald Trump the debate over whether climate change is for real, and why it might be happening, has not gone away.
It’s less clear than ever how much oil is left but thanks to technology and changing climate change which is pushing car manufacturers towards more hybrid and electric cars, is seen as less of a threat than even ten years ago.
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