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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Where Has All the Oil Gone?

Suppose there were very limited petroleum products for your children and essentially none for your grandchildren. That is precisely the prediction made by David Goodstein in his new book, Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil.

In the 1950s, Marion King Hubbert, a petroscientist with the Shell Oil Company, provided a mathematical basis for expecting oil production in the United States to peak in 1970. Alternative and unrealistically optimistic alternatives were put forth, particularly by the oil industry, but Hubbert proved to be right.

The Hubbert Thesis, which Goodstein uses as a part of the basis for his book, states that within the next decade, oil production will begin an inevitable and sharp decline. The problem is complicated by the demand for a higher standard of living in emergent economies. While Goodstein is an advocate of nuclear energy, the amount of uranium available to humankind can only support the world’s energy supply for about 25 years. While President Bush has alluded to hydrogen cells as the answer for energy problems, Out of Gas notes that they are not an energy source, but simply a method for storing energy. In producing a given amount of energy with a hydrogen cell, there is a net energy loss. The same is true of gasohol.

Alternative sources such as wind, tidal, and solar power are considered, but Goodstein notes developing the infrastructure for such systems is intricate and takes decades and would still provide only a small portion of the energy required. Widespread conversion to coal for global energy would produce a degree of pollution that would render the globe uninhabitable for humans. Automobiles, he states, reinforcing what many already know, are the primary source of global warming and environmental pollution.

Petroleum is not confined merely to gas; it is also the raw material of kerosene, lubricating oil, and fuel oil for homes. It becomes fibers for clothing, soaps and other cleaning agents, waxes, medication, jellies, fertilizers, explosives, and much more.

Are solutions possible that could preserve civilization in some recognizable and acceptable form? Goodstein notes that only if the world population were about 5 percent of its current size, i.e. about 300 million as opposed to 6 plus billion, could it deal with such problems.

Is Goodstein correct? Unfortunately, our children and their children will find out for sure.