Our society is built on oil. Those clothes you’re wearing: oil. That computer you’re using: oil. That food you’re eating: oil. Disgusting, eh?
It is important to recognize that oil is far more than just energy. Our entire economy is built on sweet crude oil, which has enabled human populations to multiply rapidly. But the ugly truth is that now we’re running out. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but peak oil is coming. Are we really just going to sit on our hands, bemoaning our fate, or are we going to be smarter than the oil?
There are no two ways about it: we’re seeing the last of cheap light sweet crude. We have extracted the majority of the easy, cheap oil and are now scrambling for what remains, namely the difficult, expensive stuff. The majority of the planet’s reserves are now under miles of ocean, in the Arctic, or tangled up in shale rock and tar sands. Sure, there are some heavy sour crude reserves…but the economic and environmental costs to get them out of the ground and turned into usable product are far too great.
The truth is there is no silver bullet when it comes to oil. It is counterproductive to pit one alternative against the other. All forms must be pursued immediately and aggressively. What must be considered is the golden buckshot, or a thousand-part solution to replace oil. It will not be easy. It will be painful, arduous and require a significant shift in our lifestyle and attitude about consumption.
It will demand a serious commitment to conservation (we can’t keep complaining about environmental degradation while we drive single digit mpg SUVs) and emerging alternatives like biomass, solar power, wind and geothermal energy. These sources of energy must get both the political support and in the investment in R&D they need to become cost-effective. There is no time to waste, particularly if those pessimistic scientists are proven right.