What if We Never Run Out of Oil?

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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.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

2 Comments

  1. Max Kennedy on

    Simple, we run out of clean air, clean water and a survivable temperature regime so eventually the earth runs out of us!

  2. So we might have oil and fossil fuels to kill ourselves. OK, so what ?

    Renewables are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. This ” grid parity ” is taking place as I write those words all over the world. On a planet where economics reign supreme this is a huge argument for renewables.

    Furthermore, renewables don’t pollute. You don’t get those horrific oil spills with them. Last but not least, they also create more jobs than fossil fuels.

    It’s a lose lose lose versus a win win win. Renewables will prevail. No matter what fossil fuels interest think, publish or say.

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