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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oil Apocalypse

What do you think? 
One of the write-ups I done last semester for Intrepretive Writing class. Hope you guys find this insightful.

by Andrew Garcia Gahol
AB Journalism – 3A

Albert Einstein once said “You cannot solve this world’s problems with the same thinking that created them”. Ironically, one set of scientists are working to cure cancer while another set are developing toxic products that may cause cancer. The same paradox applies to our obsession for petroleum. Our desire for oil-driven technologies is the same desire that will destroy the Industrial Age as we know it.

Fuel is the fuel that drives modern society. It is the dynamic force behind absolutely every form of technology in the world. Without the power of petroleum, there would be no gasoline to power our automobiles, nothing to run machines and appliances existing in the world today, nothing to power commercial manufacturing equipment and even nothing to handle generators that create other energy forms such as electric, hydroelectric, wind, solar, etc. In short, without petroleum, civilization would still be in the Dark Ages.

The Hubbert Peak Theory is an idea formulated by M. King Hubbert in the 1950s which holds that the amount of petroleum available on earth is finite and therefore will eventually dwindle until it is completely exhausted. ‘Peak oil’ is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. According to experts, considering the rate of oil consumption the world is experiencing right now, the globe is expected to experience peaking within the next 50 years. This is not a good sign for humankind
The global population consumes 80 million barrels of oil a day – the amount earth stored in nine million years. Of the 65 largest oil-producing countries in the world, 54 have passed their peak production. 
Peaking is inevitable. Man’s error lies in not doing enough to mitigate the effects of peak oil and failing to construct enough economic and political policies which could help extend the time before it actualizes.

Our craze for petroleum has been making the peaking process faster. We as a global community must now face the imminent consequence of an “oil apocalypse” when oil shall totally cease to exist.

Oil wars

The addiction to oil was one of the factors that led to the U.S. occupation and invasion of Iraq. War is a terrifying offshoot of peak oil. In an article at a website called Grinning Planet, Richard Heinberg discussed four kinds of war-for-oil conflicts expected to happen because of peak oil.

First is war between rich oil-consuming nations and poorer oil-producing nations. Second is conflict between consuming nations. Third is the occurrence of civil wars within oil-producing nations for control of resources. Last is terrorism which may take place among rich oil-consuming nations and non-state entities in oil-producing nations. All of these wars are the upshots of the rising demand of oil in a world where supplies are diminishing. As the stock of a commodity lessens, it becomes more valuable. Nations will fight to the very last drop of precious oil in order to survive even if it violates international policy.

Kelvin Rodolfo, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois in Chicago, compares oil obsession to drug addiction, “The true addict will do whatever it takes to get his drugs, even kill if necessary.” 

Return to the Dark Ages

Petroleum rules all forms of technology. Technology is a global lifestyle. What happens then when the driving force behind technology suddenly disappears? 

Oil depletion is not an evolutionary process; it is a revolutionary shock upon the very foundation of modern civilization. It will happen far quickly than the time it took for oil consumption to peak. Whenever we engross ourselves to oil-powered technology, we become a leap closer to the demise of petroleum. When there is no more fuel to run our machines, the industrial world would be no more. The death of modern technology would be the death of everything that stems from it like transportation, computers, electronics and mass-production.

It took 50-300 million years for these non-renewable sources to form, and yet we have burned nearly half of all oil reserves on the planet in merely 125 years or so. If oil consumption continues at the same or faster rate, oil exhaustion does not seem to be far away.

When oil is no longer available, the transition would be instantaneous. In a matter of less than a decade, after the last drop of fuel is used, we will experience a decline in civilization so unprecedented that humanity could not possibly handle it successfully. No oil means no technology. With the aggravating condition of fuel in the 21st century, a second Dark Age may be very well ahead of us.

No alternatives

Once these non-renewable sources of energy cease to exist, there is no alternative form of energy powerful or cheap enough to take over where petroleum has left off. According to studies, alternative forms of energy such us biofuel, biodiesel, solar power, hydro power, nuclear energy and other organic-based fuels only constitute about 2% of the total energy being utilized globally. This means that once oil has dried out, energy substitutes cannot possibly fill in the large shoes that petroleum has abandoned. Oil is such an almighty natural resource. Of all energy forms in reality, it provides the most concentrated energy value, the greatest quantities available, the easiest to produce and the most versatile uses that can be employed in almost every contraption and device on earth.

Even if today’s technology provides us with hybrid cars that don’t run on gasoline or breakthroughs in optimizing the utilization of hydroelectric, wind, solar or nuclear power, all of these innovations combined simply cannot surpass everything that petroleum has accomplished throughout time, not even close. The peak oil threat is a rare case in human history where human modernism and know-how cannot possibly compete with geological and physical reality. 

Addressing the issue

Man will always have a slow yet sure effect on nature. But when the time comes when the environmental distress that man has caused piles up, collapses and buries humanity under its weight, there is no prospect for resurgence. This is the message that the global community does not recognize enough.

How can our politicians promote policies in mitigating the impending crisis of peak oil when they are too busy focusing on corruption-oriented agenda? How can our scientists create options and feasible energy alternatives when scientific trends focus on innovations that exploit the very petroleum that is plummeting into obscurity? How can we as a global community prepare for this oil apocalypse when we simply do not know enough about energy and do not initiate the fight against the peak oil effects? Only man can help himself overcome struggles even of these catastrophic proportions. The world must prepare itself for the blow even before it strikes hard.

The malignant omen brought about by peak oil is an iconoclast to man’s idea of the planet as a boundless cornucopia.

When there is global concern, there will subsequently be global action.

We may not be able to stop oil from vanishing completely, but we have the capacity to slow down the process. We must advocate conservation of energy and endorse of resource-friendly innovations like hybrid cars and biofuels right now. When these things are supported on a global scale, we will be able to slow down the dwindling of oil, and even perhaps come up with valuable time to create ways to lessen the impact of peak oil. The peak oil crisis should not only serve as a threat but also a global challenge.

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