The Oil Age

Check out this article, The Long Emergency. The article focuses on one basic fact – this year marks when 50% of the world’s oil reserves have been depleted. The article goes on to speculate on what our world would look like without inexepensive and plentiful oil. Have you ever thought about how fundamentally our life styles, our economy, and even the way we think, our intertwined with the basic assumption of free and inexpensive energy? It colors and touches every facet of American existence. So much so that when the world’s oil reserves are depleted, life will change so drastically, that people will reflect back on our lifestyle as a product of the Oil Age.

One day I was visiting my friends in California, and around 5pm, I had to drive from La Jolla to Carlsbad which is less than 20 miles, but the drive took over an hour to drive. As far as the eye could see in both directions were huge string of car lights from 8 lanes of traffic. The amount of energy being consumed during that hour was staggering. Plus, I had lots of time to think. Here are some of my thoughts.

Alaska – As we start running low on oil, and the price starts running up, we will have no choice but to drill out the remaining oil. The American economy and lifestyle is addicted to oil, and ultimately we will have to drill in Alaska to feed that addiction. It’s not a question of if but when. Our government should not be fighting the exploration but defining the parameters in which the drilling will occur.

Time – I can’t exactly pinpoint when the Oil Age began, but let’s say it truly began with the invention of the combustible engine sometime in the late 1800’s. Roughly speaking, the oil age has lasted about 100 years, so far. But now that we are 50% through the world’s oil, the second half of the oil will last us much less than 100 years. The reason is that more and more countries are increasing their demand for oil and trying to join the Americans in the Oil Age. In particular, the monster Chinese economy is accelerating and with it their appetite for oil. My guess is that the Oil Age will end before the year 2050, which means that there is good chance that I will live to see the end of the Oil Age. At least, I will be here to see the impacts of a rapidly depleting oil supply.

Land – The problem with alternate energy sources is that they require lots of space. In particular, wind turbines must be placed in high altitude locations with lots of wind. And the same for solar panels. Land is still cheap, even in the US, but I suspect the cost of land will skyrocket as it gets ‘developed’ for alternate energy sources as we begin to run out of oil.

Air Conditioning – One of the biggest energy hogs in our economy is air conditioning our monster buildings. Air conditioning is often attributed toward the migration from the manufacturing northeast to the sun belt. What is going to happen as the cost of keeping ourselves cool and comfortable starts accelerate? Does this radically change the economics of being a Southerner?

Plans For the Future

I am sure there are many many more ramifications to our lifestyles. But the most important thing for me is that I want to get ready for this day. I love my lifestyle (and my air conditioning) and I want to protect it. The first thing is that I want to buy some land, lots of it, in a place with ample sun and wind. Then I am going to buy lots and lots of batteries to store all my energy. Afterwards, I am going to build a house on the land. It will be a great house with all the conveniences of home, air conditioning, big screen televisions, a modern kitchen, and of course internet access. But it will also use all of the latest technologies to save energy. Only the best insulation, lights that automatically shut off, and so on. I’ll also have a 100% electric car, but hopefully I will only be a 30 minute drive from a place where I can buy groceries and other necessities.

As my thinking adjusts, this will be my dream house. I’m going to start building it soon, certainly in the next five years. Best I can tell, things are going to get any better, and I definitely plan to be around for the end of the oil age.

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