Imagining our world after the oil is gone
How will we live when oil becomes too scarce and too expensive? And in light of oil's impact on the climate, why wait to find out? A feature on the future of energy in the Christian Science Monitor endeavors to answer these questions.
There are many concrete questions at hand as Americans imagine the way forward. Do we plug in our cars or feed them beets? Do we even still drive? Do we power our iPods by walking down the street, or cook dinner with stored solar energy?
Not all of these scenarios are about oil substitution – none of us today toasts up a grilled cheese sandwich over a gasoline fire – but in the energy sector, the focus is broadly on alternative fuels, not just on oil replacements. "The scenarios differ a lot depending on what the actual trigger is for the move away from fossil fuels," explains Patrick Tucker, spokesman for the World Future Society. "With mass depletion of oil, you get a price explosion, and this would have a really different effect than if we're able to move transitionally from oil as a result of application of sound technology."
In addition to environmental concnerns, the economics of the petroleum market are sizable. In 2011, we're on track to spend a half a trillion dollars on gasoline alone at the pump, about $100 billion more than we spent on gasoline last year.... If you can come in with something that upsets the primacy of oil, there's huge market opportunity.