Saturday, August 30, 2014
The worst thing about our plunder of the Earth's Oil
First some context.
This is how I see the human experiment I'm trying so hard to help succeed, and I have no idea how it has or will work out on other inhabitable planets, but here's how it went on Earth:
This is my time-line. About 2 million years ago we started to separate out ourselves as a species, probably 200,000 years ago we were fully formed as modern homo sapiens. Still we stumbled around the rain forests for most of that time, learned the basics - how to make fire, how to make tools, how to hunt, how to hunt in teams, how to raise animals we didn't have to hunt, and finally, how to grow our own food so we could stay in one place and start making some real progress. Those basics took a really long time. We call that period pre-historic because we didn't even start writing things down until say 8,000 years ago.
So here we are today. We've made a lot of progress since then. The technology we don't yet have is easily within our grasp. Not knowing how to conjure up fire when it gets cold is not our problem our problem is a lack of justice within the dominate species on this planet.
Now, if we can get through this rough spot and make it into clearer waters, and I believe that will sort itself out, one way or the other, in the next couple hundred years. if not in our lifetime, the prospects are for a very long future ahead of us given that its said that our Sun is but a middle-aged star and it is about 4.5 billion years old. What we may do with that time is beyond my imagination, I'm just trying to do my part to keep us from imploding before we get there.
Did I mention that I'm an optimist? I think we should be planning on that very long future.
Now Oil is two things. On the one hand, it is a highly complex mixture of organic compounds that nature has cooked up for us by subjecting once living matter to heat, pressure and time. We get an almost endless list of lubricates, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, name it from Oil. While all of those things can probably be synthesised without petroleum, that can only be done at greater costs while using more energy. After all, nature has already put a lot of energy into creating them.
On the other hand, Oil is a cheap and easily used source of energy. You simply put fire to it, or you refine it a bit and put fire to it. All those lovely complex molecules, that nature took so long to build, are turned into air pollution, but you do instantly release all that energy.
As a source of energy, we can easily replace Oil with solar, water or wind power, replacing it as a starting point for producing lubricates? Not so easy. So I think one of the sorriest things we can do with Oil is to burn it. We are going to need that stuff for a long time. Using it as a highly portable fuel to jump-start the industrial revolution may have been justified for a hundred years or so, but we are past that now. We should stop using oil for energy now! We need to save that stuff for the future, We should be around for a billion more years, These first million or so have just been the birth pangs. We are bound to run out of Oil no matter how sparingly we use it. Just think of what future generations will think of us for letting so much of it go up in flames.