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World Nears End of Oil Age

Posted May. 24, 2008 08:56,   


British geologist George Reynolds stood fascinated by soaring black liquid at an isolated mountain area in Persia (now Iran) on May 26, 1908. Six years and eight months had passed since he started his search for oil in the Middle East. It was the moment his effort, which never stopped even when he was ordered to return by his employer, came to fruition.

A hundred years have passed since oil drilling began in the Middle East. Cheap and abundant oil of the region has been the source of power running the world. However, amid soaring oil prices, a gloomy prospect that oil will run out faster than expected is adding to the growing uncertainty in the world.

Many are speeding up their movement to prepare for the post-oil era, which will bring drastic changes.

○ World without oil

“Plastic goods and chemical fiber clothes and shoes disappear. Chemical manure, pesticides, medicine, films, ink, plastic bags and asphalt will fade away. As transportation such as trucks stop, it becomes almost impossible to find fresh milk and vegetables in a supermarket.”

This is a description of our future on the Web (worldwithoutoil.org). It introduces the lives in a virtual reality without oil and contains shocking stories from 1,800 Internet users.

Experts warn that such a situation may come true earlier than we expect.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted the world oil demand will exceed supply by 100 million barrels a day over the next two decades. The Financial Times also reported, “The oil shortage is likely to start in 2012 at the earliest.”

The timing of “peak oil,” a point at which oil production will necessarily decline, differs depending on the used evidence and methods. However, most research centers such as the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre and the U.S. Department of Energy predict that it will be between 2030 and 2050.

○ Alternatives in “post-oil era”

There are still lingering expectations that we can produce more oil for a longer period of time, if old production facilities in the Middle East are replaced.

The May issue of the World Today, a monthly magazine published by Chatham House, home of the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, said, “If the Middle Eastern countries cooperate with the West in oil development, they can slow down the oil depletion rate.” However, it is not an easy solution because these countries regard the inflow of the Western capital as political intervention or economic exploitation.

Many countries around the world began to actively use alternative energy sources such as tide, hydro, wind and solar. The use of biofuel is increasing as well. According to a European Renewable Energy Council report last year, the alternative energy market in the world increased by 26 percent year-on-year to reach $38 billion in 2006.

The European Union is operating some 250 programs to replace 20 percent of the total fuel with alternative energy sources except oil by 2020. The United States is also focusing on developing alternative energy by offering tax breaks to companies that produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2020.

When all the efforts become successful, there will be cars running on hydrogen and corns around the world, and houses will have a small refrigerator-size generator using the solar heat. To speed up alternative energy development, massive investments from all countries are needed.