What will happen when the world runs out of oil? Will the humanity live on? Is oil really necessary?
So Unless you’ve been living in a hippy commune for the last century , you know that oil is the lifeblood of our civilization. It powers every single aspect of our modern lives, it is so vital to our way of life that wars have been threatened, and fought over it.
In 1991, Iraq managed to raise the ire of
the largest coalition of nations in history when it threatened 70% of the world’s oil supply; more so than human rights, anti-fascism, or justice, oil- sadly- is the single most unifying force in the world. But what if the tap was turned off permanently?
What if the world woke up to discover all the oil in the world was used up?
Profits vary depending on supply, demand, and total output- but in 2013 while the rest of the world was still recovering from a global financial crash, the big 5 oil companies- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell- were generating $177,000 in profit
every minute, or $93 billion dollars a year. With so much money, oil companies have been able to exert an incredible amount of influence across the world.
In Sudan, militias backed by foreign oil companies waged a war of genocide and rape on the villagers who inhabited the great oil fields discovered there, while Sudanese government forces ignored the catastrophe or actively aided the militias while also being paid off by the same oil companies. No resource ever- to include gold and diamonds- has created more prosperity and human misery in equal terms.
Yet we desperately need oil for our daily lives- it powers the vehicles that bring us to work, creates plastics that go into the cheap products that makes life so convenient, and is even refined into life-saving medicines. With oil so critical to civilization, what would happen if it ran out? The most obvious effect would be the billions
of vehicles which wouldn’t be able to drive people to work all around the world.
In the US the average American commutes 16 miles to work each day, so the sudden disappearance of oil would devastate most economies as workers simply can’t get to work anymore.
There would be a major reshuffling of employment
amongst the majority of the population, with people giving up their long distance jobs and competing for those near them. Specialized industries that require highly qualified individuals would be hard pressed to find replacement employees, and most of these highly specialized industries would likely opt to build living areas directly on company property.
In a lot of ways the world would revert back to an industrial-era landscape of work-live communes peppering the map. Those least affected by the disappearance
of oil would be those who work remotely and don’t physically need to leave their house- such as many online businesses.
Surprisingly the lights would still be on around most of the world, so the internet would still work- in the US only 1 percent of power plants burn oil. Coal and natural gas make up the bulk of the American energy market, followed by a much
smaller share of nuclear power and hydropower, and lastly renewables such as solar and wind. Yet eventually the grid would start to power down as the oil that drives the trains and trucks that transport coal and gas runs out.
Communities built around nuclear or other renewable energy sources would fare best, and their lights would keep on humming along happily in a world without oil. Cars would be useless- at least for a while.
The disappearance of oil would necessitate the switch to natural gas to make our cars go, a process which would take a pretty long time but would ultimately be achievable. Pakistan recently completed a conversion to
natural gas as the default fuel for vehicles, helping limit their own oil addiction.
Yet the US, with its savage addiction to oil, is poorly equipped to make this transition, making the change a long and painful process. Without oil to bring food to supermarkets, an artificial famine would strike, killing millions while food rots in farmers’ field.
Major cities which are so completely reliant on importing food, fuel and other necessities would be the hardest hit, and mass migrations out of the cities would take place leading to a reversal in human habitation trends that has seen more people living in cities than
in rural areas for the first time in history. The influx of ‘city folk’ into the neighboring communities and beyond would likely be met at first with anger, and inevitably with violence as greater and greater concentrations of people compete for limited resources.
Until enough infrastructure can be converted to use natural gas, humanity would revert to a pre-industrial lifestyle where the majority of the population lives in the countryside.
Food would be grown and sourced locally, and while that may at first seem like a Los Angeles
hipster’s wet dream come true, the quality, quantity, and variety of available food would plummet drastically.
Only crops suitable to the immediate environment would grow, and without the excavation and import of artificial super-fertilizers such as phosphate, crops would grow smaller and with less yields.
Angelenos would have to kiss their year-round avocado-on-toast breakfasts goodbye. Most people’s diets would revert back to a pre-industrial era standard of high-fiber, starchy foods. Cereal crops such as wheat and barley would make up the bulk of our diets, and meat would be a rare delicacy. While this sounds gastronomically boring, the up side is that obesity rates would plummet, as would the incidence of cavities and other
For the world’s petrostates, such as Algeria, Venezuela, and Nigeria, the disappearance of oil would lead to a complete economic and social collapse. These nations, already so vulnerable to fluctuations
in oil prices, would be left with little if any industry or economy to speak of without oil- their highly specialized economies are a crippling vulnerability, and even though it has been identified, little if any corrective
Action has to date been taken. Economies around the world would also shrink,
though perhaps not to the extremes that a
Living standards and wages would dramatically plummet, and most of life’s conveniences would be a thing of the past. China and India, with the world’s fastest developing economies and greatest energy needs, would be shaken to their foundations as a drying up of oil reserves brings the great engines of their economies to an absolute halt. More developed nations such as those in the West would be severely afflicted, but due to well-developed infrastructure and diversified industries, would be in a far better position to re-adjust to this new reality.
What will happen if world runs out of oil
Mass migrations from petrostates would be inevitable, which in turn would spark regional wars as people compete for available resources. War itself though would also be heavily affected, and most of the world’s high-tech weapon systems would be nothing but relics. Fighting would revert back to mass-infantry conflicts of World War I, with horse cavalry replacing armored vehicles and tanks for reconnaissance and as shock troops.
Only the United States, with the largest strategic oil reserve in the world, would have the resources necessary to power its weapons of war- although only for a short time. If the entire reserve was dedicated to the military, it might maintain most of its mechanized inventory active for a few months at most. The disappearance of oil would not mean the apocalypse so often predicted however, as economies and industry would simply begin a long and painful transition to alternative energy.
Natural gas is an abundant resource, as of right now the US has 90 years worth of proven natural gas reserves, and more may be discovered. While not as high performing as oil, natural gas is perfectly capable of powering our civilization- however even though natural gas is seen as ‘cleaner’ than most other fuels because it emits so little carbon dioxide, it actually emits a great deal of methane which has greater warming potential than carbon dioxide.
What will happen if world runs out of oil
A complete switch to natural gas would likely mean an even faster environmental disaster for the planet than oil as we artificially heat the planet to unsustainable levels. The only bright side would be that after the
inevitable climate disaster, when we finally stopped burning natural gas entirely its short-lived
methane would eventually break down in the atmosphere and restore the planet to a semi-normal state- you’d just have to wait a few lifetimes for it to happen.
Although Nothing has changed the state of human affairs quite like oil, and without oil it’s unlikely that our civilization could have risen to the great heights that it has. However, oil also threatens to bring down that same civilization through catastrophic climate change. With proven reserves of oil deposits growing every year, its clear that if the world chooses to it can continue burning oil for a century or more to come, and the only real imperative.
To eliminating our addiction to oil is our concern for the planet’s- and our own- future | Something we humans with our short-sighted lives are not very good at caring about.
So Oil won’t disappear anytime soon, though our coast lines and the very global air and water currents that make our planet such a wonderfully mild place to live, definitely will- and if any of your friends still doubts this is a reality, hit them in the face with a science
How do you thin humanity would fare in a world without oil? What would be your survival strategy? Let us know in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other Posts Like
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