Look around you. Don’t you see a lot of plastic? It’s not only made from oil but the energy used to extract the raw material, process it, and ship it to you almost entirely came from oil. What can you see of unblemished nature from where you are now? Do you see a tree? It is probable that the tree was trimmed at some point, both the tools and fuel for which were made from or with energy from oil. In addition, the rate of growth of the tree has probably increased with the increase in carbon dioxide humanity has put into the air by burning oil. But what will we do when our fossil fuel supplies run low and become much more expensive to extract from the earth?
What about the sky? That’s just pure mother nature, right? The answer is usually no. It isn’t just the usually-visible jet contrails that represent oil. It has been documented that at least 3% of the clouds we see, especially cirrus and similar types that exist at higher altitudes, are the result of jets that passed hours or even days before. The moisture that is a natural byproduct of the burning of jet fuel stays behind and gradually spreads out until sometimes it creates clouds spread over hundreds of miles.
When you start to appreciate just how dependent on oil we are, you start to really appreciate alternative energy sources. By now you may feel we have an insurmountable task to escape from our dependence on fossil fuels before they run out to the point that our lifestyles are severely and negatively affected. I am here to tell you the task is not insurmountable, but that time is of the essence. Conservation today buys us time to invent the things we will need in the future, things that use less energy or produce usable amounts of energy without the huge cost and risk we accrue by depending on fossil fuels. Basic research, mostly neglected by the business community in favor of applications research that brings a more predictable payback, has become mostly the province an increasingly impoverished public sector (government, universities, etc.).
We can change things for the better with your help. We must all tell our elected representatives we want and need basic research. We must insist on legislative actions that not only fund such research but also favor the small companies more likely to develop new technologies than stifle them for decreasing the value of entrenched products. We can’t depend on the short-sighted corporate world to invent, develop, or bring to market the new technologies we will need. Instead we will have to convince our legislators to take risks, to invest in fundamental research that will, in some cases, be expensive, in some cases will prove fruitless, and in other cases will require a truly open-minded approach. Note that the great inventions we enjoy today didn’t come about over night. In most cases they were around for decades before anyone made them truly useful, and often decades more before they were in the hands of just about everyone. If we want to mitigate the huge problems we have every reason to expect in the next century we need to focus our efforts now.
Please learn to see oil (and fossil fuels) in the objects around you, and to conserve them more effectively. Also please support legislative proposals to conserve resources, promote measures to reduce birth rates, and provide alternatives to fossil fuels.
As always, I welcome your comments and sharing of this article with others. It is only through raising the popular consciousness that we can mitigate the very serious problems facing us in the next century. Thanks — Tim