You hear about it all the time in the news. What is the current price of oil, no one is buying, and everyone is buying, oil, oil, oil. Gas is going up, gas is going down, gas, oil, gas. All sorts of headlines everywhere on the subject. However, this isn’t what this articles going to be concerned about. I’ve definitely noticed that, especially in places with a strong car culture, no matter what they say in the news, they don’t care. Oil definitely hasn’t been affected by this, but should it have been?
The age of oil is humanity's past, and its present, and its future, but for how long? The great dependence on oil in nearly all of our products makes it hard to just stop using this resource. We burn it in our power plants, and mold it into our plastics, and use it in our medicines, but how long will we have oil for? Many believe that we have already reached peak oil, a bell curve in humanities oil consumptions until it becomes so rare that we wage nuclear war for it. We’ve used this resource carelessly for half a century, but is the age of oil coming to an end? Renewable power has come a long way, so the question is, will we stop using oil before it runs out?
To understand this better, let's take a brief look at our oil history, and some possible futures that could happen in our world. The age of oil and fossil fuels, in general, began at the turn of the century during the beginning of the machine age, also called the Industrial Revolution. Around the middle of the 18th century it was being used up by one of its products, kerosene, for home lighting and heating. American Billionaire John Rockefeller of Standard oil, which later split into smaller companies, most notable ExxonMobil. Later, in the beginning of the 1900’s, its once useless product, gasoline, found use as the fuel in cars and power plants. After the Second World War, many believed that the atomic age would end the age of oil, and nuclear powered machines would replace it. However, the staggering costs of creating nuclear power, and the dangers to plant workers, made global superpowers abandon the mainstream application of this type of power.
Fast forward to the present, many believe we have just recently hit our peak oil supply, as mentioned before, and that the world would slowly run out of it as costs soar. Three often predicted futures regarding oil are as follows: The first is a collapse of Western Civilization. I'm not even joking, that's a possible future. Our dependence on oil and refusal to change could literally lead to anarchy when we run out, causing large governments like the US and China to fall apart. The second is basically the first, but with a quicker death. A nuclear holocaust could occur as world superpowers, dependent on oil, fight for the remaining supply, and by extension, destroy the world. The third, and most friendly of the two, is that renewable power gradually replaces fossil power, greatly reducing oil consumption until we develop new materials to replace other products of this black liquid. This is the path that we appear to be on currently, and hopefully it stays that way.
Humanity has a pretty bright future in renewable energy, as well as, technology. Impractical devices: self-driving cars, cybernetic upgrades, sentient computers, moon colonization, all once thought the realm of science fiction, these ideas are starting to come to fruition, but that's an article for another day. Then, again, in the 50’s, scientists predicted a mankind powered by atomic reactors and a thousand miles-a-hour travel, which have yet to be. A world free from the grasp of oil is one that can grow, not to say though it hasn't helped us. It initiated America’s golden age, the Industrial Revolution, and launched us to heights unimaginable. Only time can tell.
As always, here are some more resources to study further: The Oil Age, The Atomic Age, Nuclear War, Asimov's Future Predictions, More future predictions.
Thanks for reading.
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