Copyright (c) 2008 Mervyn Rees
Energy experts can often jump on the bandwagon and scare people into thinking that we are running out of oil. The only effect this has is to raise oil costs as people become concerned at the sensed threat of a reduce supply increases demand and so opportunists push up prices.
But we are not running out of oil any-time soon. Oil sands (or tar sands) and bitumen are two alternative ways to extract oil from the ground. Again, critics suggest that this is impractical since the expense is too high, well it’s that very expense that makes it possible and profitable now, and as we all know if there is a ‘Buck’ in it, they’ll find away.
But your grandmother was right about this when she said “necessity is the mother of invention.” And that truth applies explicitly in this case. Assuming we run out of free-flowing oil currently in the ground, everyone (critics including) will be amazed and surprised how quickly a method is discovered to extract oil from oil sands and bitumen. Sure, the science may or may not be there now, but when billions of people are waiting at home to fuel their cars and get to work and the economy is on the verge of collapse because no one can drive anywhere, work or buy things, you can be sure that the scientists will burn the figurative midnight oil to find a solution, indeed the latest ‘scuttle’ is they have already started and the supply from such resources is in fact now started happening daily.
The same principle will work for other alternative fuel measures. Assuming, just a few years down the road, we run out of free-flowing oil and oil developed from tar sands, scientists are once again burning the midnight oil and discover that an alternative like biodiesel or ethanol can be produced efficiently in a way that does not impinge on regular farming, but is an extra to it, thereby not threatening our food supplies as it all balances out.
For ‘Biodieselers’, the Genie is out of the bottle, and now that we make our own fuel very cheaply, why would we ever go back?
Although this sounds philosophical, humanity has an uncanny way of meeting issues head-on and addressing them through incredible scientific discoveries… but only when there is a real requirement.