Here’s a lengthy but excellent article from The Atlantic: “What If We Never Run Out of Oil?”
It certainly is an interesting concept – one that I find quite credible. For instance, we have recently discovered untapped reservoirs of methane hydrate (think of it was combustible ice) that collectively is the volume of the Mediterranean Sea. What happens when we develop the technology to extract, refine, and distribute it cost-effectively?
Sure, methane burns about twice as cleanly as coal, but it’s still a hydrocarbon fossil fuel, and burning this stuff is resulting in nearly all the increase in concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Also, keep in mind that the methane that leaks from the extraction process is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
The article reminds me of my conversation with the late Matt Simmons, “peak oil” guru, whom I interviewed for my first book. When I suggested that the depletion of the oil fields was an important factor in the development of renewable energy, he said, “Oh, yes. It’s the only one that actually forces us to do it.”
Sadly, he may be right; it’s possible that humankind will develop an inexhaustible capacity to suck fossil fuels out of the ground, and that the mere possibility will prove irresistible – even as the consequences of this behavior cause an ever-growing array of environmental and health-related horrors that ultimately render our planet incapable of supporting most of the life forms we know and love.
The article mentions that there is a potential downside to all this abundance, though it’s not nearly as direct on the subject. Perhaps the author left it to bloggers like me to deliver the frightening truth; no one likes to be the bearer of bad news.