So Long and Thanks for All the Oil

Everyone knows it, soon or later we’re doomed to run out of oil. The question is just when this is due to happen. I remember when I was a child, back in the seventies, when first oil crisis arose, then awareness that oil was a finite resource started to be shared by most. Time passed and, apart from a constant rise in the gasoline price, nothing happened.
Yesterday I was at the local mall bookstore and found a book about this. Curious as I am I couldn’t resist to a (not so quick) glance through the text.
Unfortunately I don’t remember the title, nor the author; he is a geologist who worked for many oil corporations, so he should know his stuff.
The most alarming thing I read is that we’ve consumed about half the oil available on Earth. Within ten years we’ll reach the production peak and then oil will be scarcer and scarcer. Considering that beside western countries, with an ever growing energy need, we have emerging countries like China and India that are… emerging, the end of the oil era could be really soon now. Think twice before buying a new car.
What is going to happen to us? How this will impact on our lifestyle?
Our economy is strongly based on oil, so economic problems will cause an increase in poverty and stagnation.
We need something that could replace oil really fast. Unfortunately Hydrogen is not the answer, for the simple reason that we cannot mine it, despite being the most common element in Universe (beside stupidity, they say). To produce a liter of Hydrogen from water we need more energy than what the same liter could give back when employed. Nonetheless Hydrogen could be good to “store” energy for vehicles, as long as we keep ignoring its high explosive potential.
What about nuclear power? In the fifties it was the panacea – everyone and his brother expected to have an atomic powered vacuum cleaner in a matter of years.
I am not an expert, but from what I read if the current energy demand had to be satisfied just by nuclear fission, the nuclear fuel on Earth would last just 3 years. While debries would stay with us for thousands.
Maybe nuclear fusion is better, but not everyone agrees. Those that don’t think fusion is the answer are not just a bunch of green, environmentalist, hippies, but respectable scientist are among them. One for all, Nobel prize Rubbia.
So what’s the answer? Apart from renewable sources like wind and tides, an interesting source of fuels could come from vegetables – soy and rape could be converted in bio-diesel fuel and alcohol produced from fermentation is another good fuel. Maybe not so efficient like gasoline and diesel, but we won’t have the choice.

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