It can no longer be denied that the our use of petroleum is becoming a growing problem.
America, and the world, currently thrive on gasoline. It is the blood that runs through the veins of the modern world. This addiction must be broken in order to avoid the undeniable problem of oil production peaking. The only realistic solution is to use the historically more sound fuel, ethanol.
Petroleum takes three to four hundred million years of compression of organic material to form. Therefore, it can be assured that once we run out of oil we will not be able to get anymore for the foreseeable future. Petroleum is formed in underground reservoirs of vastly different sizes. The majority of the "super giants" were discovered in the Middle East during the 1960s. Reservoir's lifetimes usually last only a few decades. The vast majority of the oil on earth has been discovered and has been developed. It is only a matter of time before we begin to run out.
As Robert Hirsch put it, "Oil is the life blood of modern civilization." America uses approximately twenty-five percent of the worlds oil production but only has five percent of the world's population. Petroleum was an instrumental part of the United State's rise to world power. That same thirst for crude oil is being emulated by the growing economies of China and India. Experts expect that demand for crude oil will increase by fifty percent by the year 2025. OPEC, Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries, has stated that the supply of crude oil will not match the demand in ten to fifteen years. When asked what it would take to keep up with forecasted demand, Dr. Sadad al-Husseini, a retired senior Saudi Aramco oil exploration executive, stated "...a whole new Saudi Arabia [will have to be found and developed] every couple of years." It is important to remember that the problem at hand is not that the world oil supply is about to run out it is that the production of petroleum will peak. That is that the production will reach a certain level and at no point will we ever be able to produce the same amount again. Production will begin to decline until the supply runs out. Of course this poses a big problem to the ever growing economies of the world. The point at which oil production peaks may not happen for several more decades or could be happening at this very moment, a problem with this debacle is that it is impossible to know when the peak will occur until after it has happened.
Robert Hirsch suggests that governments should take initiative to avoid the serious social and economic problems that are imminent once we begin to have liquid fuel shortages. Governments need to begin implementing "mega projects" at a fast rate to produce the new technology required. These projects need to be implemented significantly before the peak occurs or severe shortages in fuel will take place. Preparing ten years before the peak occurs will likely help the situation but there will still be severe fuel shortages for upwards of ten years. Waiting for the peak to occur before any serious steps are taken would leave the world with significant fuel shortages for more than twenty years. This would absolutely devastated the economic structure of the entire world. Therefore, programs should begin at least twenty years before the peak is theorized to occur to have any chance of avoiding social and economic turmoil. Unfortunately, this point may have already occurred.
Most Americans have no idea how deep the effect Petroleum plays on their daily lives is. Petroleum is required for producing many other products other than just fuel and the availability of literally everything is dependent on the supply of petroleum fuels. Products such as ink, crayons, bubble gum, dish washing liquid, deodorant, eyeglasses, records, tires, ammonia, heat valves, various medicines, and every product that contains anything made from plastic are all made from petroleum. Everything that doesn't fit in these categories is dependent on petroleum fuels for transportation. Fuels made from petroleum are required for the boats, airplanes, and trucks to transport goods all over the country and all over the world. A large percentage of homes in the United States also require propane, a petroleum gas, for cooking and heating. Literally everything the average American owns has been effected by Petroleum.
Few also know that the only reason we are addicted to gasoline in the first place is the result of unfair business practices. John Davison Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and considered the richest man in world history, was producing kerosene as a heating and lighting fuel. The waste from the production process was dumped into the rivers at night. Up until this point alcohol was the liquid fuel of choice because of the strong farming presence in America. John Rockefeller eventually got a car to run on this industrial waste which we now call gasoline. Gasoline began to catch on in American cities because the residents were unable to create their own fuel like the people living in the country. The Ford Model T and Model A were flex-fuel vehicles because of this. Henry Ford was a big supporter of alcohol based fuels because it supported the people rather than corporations. The original Model Ts ran on a bio-ethanol made from industrial hemp and the panels were made of a plastic created from hemp oil. J. D. Rockefeller saw that he would never win this industrial war so he chose to stop playing fair. Rockefeller gave the Women's Christian Temperance Movement the modern equivalent of four hundred million dollars. Using the money the group was able to convince an all male, hard drinking, Congress that alcohol should be illegal. After prohibition was passed it became illegal to own or produce alcohol for any purpose. Rockefeller's Standard Oil became the richest company in history because of this fraud but was eventually ended under a monopoly conviction. Successor companies to Standard Oil include Exxon Mobil, Amaco and Chevron.
eventually ended when farmers elected pro-farming members to Congress
to help the bloated grain market and use surplus grain. American
farmers tried to emulate German farmers by creating a infrastructure
based on alcohol made from crops. The farmers were arrested as
"terrorists with dangerous German ideas."Some things never change.
Cannabis , which grew naturally as a weed all across the country, was demonized as a dangerous drug by oil and chemical companies for similar reason. Specifically, the DuPont company created synthetic fibers, such as nylon, and plastics which are both created from petroleum. Cannabis, especially strains of industrial hemp, can be used to create fibers and plastics much cheaper and stronger than those based on petroleum. These corporations could care less if the people were interested in getting high off the plant and were interested in destroying it for economic reasons.
Electric cars are often cited as a good way to solve the liquid fuel problem, however they pose many problems. The primary supporters of electric cars are nuclear and coal companies. Electric cars would be charged at night. Currently power plants are forced to ramp down their energy production at night because no one is using it. If electric cars become popular this would change. This would do nothing to solve the environment problems brought on by the current use of gasoline. Electric cars also pose other major problems. Electric cars use batteries to store energy, batteries are expensive, have high failure rates, and relatively short lifetimes. Electric motors are also made with a large copper coil. Copper is also expensive and is in far too limited of a supply for the electric motor to feasibly replace the combustion engine in this country, let alone the world. Electric cars are far from a realistic solution to the liquid fuel problem.
Unlike gasoline, ethanol comes from a renewable source. Ethanol is produced by fermenting the sugars in plants. Ethanol is clean burning and ninety eight percent pollution free. All cars can run on E10 ethanol, a mixture of ten percent ethanol and ninety percent gasoline, however most new cars can run on up to a fifty percent mixture of the two with no problem. A gasoline burning car requires very little modification to become a flex fuel vehicle. This procedure is also extremely affordable. Ethanol can be distributed the same way as gasoline, even at the same stations. We are also extremely familiar with creating ethanol. As David Bloom put it, creating alcohol is "humanities second oldest profession". Ethanol can be created from many different plant sources. These include corn, maize, wheat, waste straw, willow, sawdust, reed canary grass, Jerusalem artichoke, myscanthus, sweet sorghum, cat tails, mesquite sugar beets, kelp, industrial hemp, and many other plants.
Some of the plants are better than others. Sugar beets and sweet sorghum have some of the biggest yield per acre of any plants; however, they must be farmed. Mesquite grows throughout the southwest United States as a weed. Its bean pods have a higher yield than corn, the plant doesn't need to be killed when the bean pods are harvested, it requires very little water, and self fertilizes. Cat tails also grow as a weed and have a higher yield than corn. Cat tails can also be used to filter gray water, therefore, water treatment plants could be created that use cat tails for the majority of the filtration process and the treatment plant would create a byproduct of a usable liquid fuel. Kelp, which grows off of the coast of Mississippi and California, can also be used to create a fuel. A new system would need to be created to collect the kelp and to stay environmentally friendly but the use of the vast amount of naturally occurring kelp would allow the United States to easily surpass its fuel needs and have a large deficit which could be exported. Industrial help, which is currently illegal, could also be an excellent choice because it can be grown nearly anywhere and has a high cellulose content. Aside from its use as a fuel, its oils could also be used to replace all the plastics and synthetic fibers currently being created from petroleum.
Using alcohol instead of gasoline would also have many environmental benefits. Alcohol burns much cleaner than gasoline. The only emissions from the burning of alcohol are carbon dioxide and water. Coincidently, these two substances are what the plants that are use to create the fuel need to survive. Gasoline is an industrial waste and, consequently, burns like one. The composition of gasoline varies from tank to tank and often the bigger molecules are not broken down during combustion. These unburned hydrocarbons are the major pollutant coming out of a cars tail pipe.
The world as it is known by modern society will not be able to maintain itself if he addiction to gasoline is allowed to continue until our production of gasoline peaks. The world must switch back to the more environmentally sound alcohol based fuels in order to avoid this imminent economic and social disaster.