We often hear apocalyptic scenarios about crude oil, but sometimes these aren’t really factual. The actual data (when reliable) can help us to understand it in a better way. This data is related to what experts call “peak oil”, which indicates the point in time when the maximum rate of crude oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of extraction is expected to begin to decline… forever.
According to some sources, we already reached peak oil in 2008. That means we are now in a descending phase of the availability of this resource, which is non-renewable. Developing countries like China and India will not drop their demand for crude oil. In fact, their demand will increase exponentially over the next couple of years, requiring almost half of the crude oil that is extracted to be refined.
The slope of the curve on which oil has been extracted peaked relatively slowly. It happened over about 150 years with 60 discoveries related to the use of oil, including plastics, rubber etc. But the downward trend will be quite rapid.
Greener Alternatives to Crude Oil
Cleaner alternatives like natural gas, wind energy, solar energy and biofuel have gained popularity over pollutants like crude oil and coal. But there’s still a way to go before conventional energy sources can be phased out in favour of clean energy.
Renewables have come too late to the game to allow a quick and smooth transition, but better late than never. So, the use of energy as we know it now certainly has an expiration date. It’s true, many people and companies are increasingly aware of the collective responsibility we all have to preserve our planet, and many have banned petrochemicals from their products. But in Italy, for instance, the transport of goods is basically all on four wheels, and those greenhouse gases just keep pumping out in the form of exhaust fumes. Oil doesn’t just serve as fuel. It can be found in your computer, your phone, your car, your bike, your home, the fibres of your clothes… and even cosmetics contain petroleum products.
As a concerned community there are things that we can do (besides trying to become independent from this source of energy). First and foremost, we can make informed choices about which of our products contain crude oil, and look for greener, healthier alternatives. It’s an important step towards a cleaner way of life for us all.