Let me first say that the presentation I’m about to show you is by a man I admire quite a bit – he has a passion for efficiency that makes me look like an amateur. Check out this great presentation (and admire the style of the slides as well), then let’s discuss it for a minute…
Now, what would happen if we actually DID THIS? What if America moved totally to an oil-free economy by 2050? While I agree we need to strive for this goal, I started to think of the actual results on the rest of the world. See if this makes sense:
- The world price of oil would collapse to $20/barrel or less
Think of what would happen if the largest consumer of oil in the world stopped importing any oil? The price of oil would not go to $0, since China and India still would need it in the short term. But do you think OPEC would let America just STOP? Of course not.
The price of oil would be drastically reduced, and a fair number of America’s population would desperately hold on to their oil-based machines since it would be so much cheaper to operate them (pollution be damned). The only way we would totally stop using oil is if there weren’t any left. But this would result in other effects…
- The economy of the Middle East would collapse, fueling more extremism
There are a number of countries in the Middle East, Africa, and South America that depend on oil sales as their number one source of revenue – so what would happen if oil reduced in value by 80%? Absolute economic chaos, that’s what would happen.
Many countries have grown so accustomed to oil revenue that they haven’t developed any secondary industries to supplant it (Libya and Iraq could be classified this way.) Saudi Arabia has created so many obligations that they NEED the price of oil to stay high – if it didn’t, their governments would be toppled quickly. So extremists would rise out of economic desperation to confront us once again.
- The US would not maintain a strategic advantage using these technologies
Think of the companies that have or will develop clean technology – I would assume that most of them are publicly traded. So if the US developed a revolutionary way to run our entire economy without oil, do you think the Federal Government would prevent those companies from selling these products abroad? Would they be kept for Americans?
Probably not – in order to please Wall Street, these companies would have to open their markets internationally, and sell these technologies to our economic competitors (unless those nations just decided to take advantage of cheap oil, which they probably would).
My point is this: getting off oil is a dream for many (including myself), but it would not result in an economic revolution. It might be a way to keep manufacturing in the US for a while, and it will definitely reduce our carbon footprint – but as long as oil exists and is cheap, other countries will continue to burn oil and our long-term problems will remain. It would take an international mandate to abolish oil to affect real change – and that will not happen in this century, I’m afraid. I think we should still develop a clean economy, of course, but the true impetus of change will have to be something other than money.