Oil is for Fossils

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, he is a very well educated and intelligent guy, and at some point our conversation turned to the idea of an infrastructure run on electric vehicles. He began to discuss the shortcomings of an electric infrastructure. He had some good points, but I simply countered with “we don’t have a choice” fossil fuel will not last forever.

In an interesting article from the July 2011 issue of Popular Science, Paul Roberts discusses some of the cold hard facts about our oil future. First he makes the point that oil is very efficient form of energy, that when we can get to “easy oil”, it has one of the highest ratios of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). But we are quickly burning through the easy oil. As we have to extract oil from the more difficult sources, such as shale, coal, and heavy oil, the costs will go up substantially and the EROEI will go down.

The article discusses that if we moved to an alternative energy source today and started replacing vehicles at our current rate to run on this new energy source, it would take 15 years to swap out the world’s fleet. If we were to do this, it is estimated that we would reach peak oil consumption sometime in the 2030’s and it would take about two trillion barrels of oil over the next four decades to meet this demand, this is double the 1.2 trillion barrels that have been used thus far.

There is still quite a bit of oil on our planet, it is estimated that there might be 8 trillion barrels of oil. But most of these reserves are difficult to get to, expensive to extract, and have poor energy returns on energy invested. Oil will sooner rather than late become too expensive to run the worlds economy. The sooner we get started on our transition to a renewable alternative, the brighter our futures will become.


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