This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


The World Is Running Out of Oil. Here's How to Be Prepared

image credit: Photo by Zakaria Zayane on Unsplash

Oil substantially impacts the products and activities that people become familiar with during their daily lives. Individuals immediately make a connection between oil and the fuel for vehicles. It serves that purpose, but oil also plays a role in the production of many plastics and chemicals, as well as asphalt and tar. 

It's safe to say that if we didn't have oil, people would notice its absence immediately. Unfortunately, that scenario is not a far-flung possibility. Experts are already giving warnings about dwindling supplies, and people must stop thinking of oil as a virtually endless resource. 

Here, we'll look at some of the things that make it necessary to plan for reducing dependence on oil. Then, we'll explore how people can adopt preparedness mindsets rather than panicking. 

Increasing Concerns

The data stacks up to validate the threat of reduced oil supplies. For example, the S&P Oil & Gas Index has dropped by 32% since early January. Also, a recent threat — the coronavirus — has hindered growth in China, one of the world's biggest markets for oil. 

Other people take a different stance on the matter and insist that the world is not running out of oil. Nonetheless, they say the economics surrounding the oil industry is too unsustainable to continue. Drilling oil is a costly task, and researchers cited a plateau in crude oil production as one of the reasons behind the 2005 financial crash. 

The oil industry pivoted after that point and made up for the problem by extracting liquid oils that are more difficult to retrieve than previous options. It addressed the matter in the short-term, but the new expensive forms of oil-based energy limit economic growth. They may also trigger a long-term economic contraction, experts say. Thus, continuing to rely on oil as much as we do could have catastrophic consequences for the global marketplace. 

Another concerning fact is that many nations, including the United States, are heavily dependent on foreign oil. Any disruptions in the countries that supply it inevitably affect the places that need it. The oil and gas industry is the sector most targeted by terrorist attacks worldwide. The people who commit those acts know that disruption has widespread ramifications.

These problems are only the tip of the iceberg regarding why societies cannot behave as if it's business as usual concerning oil. We do not have the luxury of living as if there is a nearly limitless supply. 

Getting Ready

Cutting back on oil dependence is not an easy or quick goal to reach. However, it's not an impossible quest. The key for individuals is to assess what's within their ability to do.

One option for everyday people is to consider using solar energy or other renewables. Various technologies exist for converting energy from the sun into electricity or heat. For example, concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) allow solar engineers to replace the traditional large silicon cells with much smaller pieces of high-performance material. Some analysts believe that if the world used solar energy, it'd no longer need to go to war over oil. 

Another possibility is for people to prioritize using cars that get excellent fuel economy or electric-powered models. Research indicates that the full penetration of electric vehicles could remove 25 million oil barrels per day from the market.  It also shows that the passenger vehicle sector is the most dependent on oil. Improving or changing the cars on the roads could cut oil use and ensure that drivers are not as impacted if prices rise due to limited supply. 

People can also plan for the reduced availability of oil by becoming familiar with alternatives to traditional plastics. Compelled by the fact that about 90% of plastics are petroleum-based and not biodegradable, researchers came up with a durable and earth-friendly alternative that combines rubber with bioplastic. Evidence also suggests that the reduced demand for traditional plastics could impact the crude oil sector more than anticipated. 

Although people should not fear that oil will run out soon, it's past time for them to act as if it never will. Now is an ideal time to make lifestyle changes that mean oil takes a less-prominent position. Fortunately, technological solutions make it easier to find oil-free alternatives. Learning about these is the first crucial step towards deciding to use them regularly, so people should keep open minds and be willing to do things differently for the sake of preserving the future. 

Emily Folk's picture

Thank Emily for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.


No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »