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Thread: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expires?

  1. #1
    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expires?

    Whenever I become involved in a discussion of why the process of switching to a fuel source other than petroleum is so slow, other people usually say that the major oil companies do not wish for society to switch so that they can continue to profit from the production of petroleum-based fuels.

    However, petroleum is a limited resource, and people are mining it from the Earth at a rate faster than it can be replenished (it takes millions of years to form), so the world's supply of petroleum will inevitably be depleted, and if society has not yet made the transition to an alternative source of energy, we shall all be in great trouble when that depletion finally does occur.

    In my mind, the best course of action for the oil companies to take would be to invest a portion of their vast resources into the research and development of alternative fuel sources, to be ready for when the world's supply of petroleum finally expires (or, hopefully, before then), so that the world does not become a Mad Max-style barren wasteland due to scarcity of fuel (interesting fact: the first Mad Max film was inspired by actual riots that occurred in Australia in the late 1970's when there was a sudden shortage of gasoline).

    What does everyone else say about this? What shall the major oil companies do when the world's supply of oil finally does expire, if they have not prepared for that catastrophe?
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    Moderator TLHarrell's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    Currently the issue isn't the quantity of located oil reserves in the ground, it's the ability to actually extract it. We can pump out only a small fraction of the oil we have.

    As far as the economy goes, I don't think there's any industry that isn't partially based on oil, plastics or other petroleum derivatives. If the oil supply were to suddenly dry up, we'd be left swinging in the breeze. I don't see any "green tech" answers that will properly fill in the gaps. The technology has a very long way to mature to be a real contender in the energy market. Most "green tech" also relies heavily on plastics and other petrochemical processes. Nuclear is by far the better option, but meets with so much resistance that it's near impossible to get permitted to build one anymore.

    I could see an economy switching over to locating and reprocessing plastics and other derivatives. If the scarcity drives up the prices and there's no alternatives, that would be the way the market would go.
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    Why must hard drives fail together? TheMainMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    I'm guessing that they are sitting on a lot of tech that could be deployed later on to increase the efficiency of a lot of our current uses for oil-based energy. It's fairly well known in the automotive world at least that truly innovative products that would increase fuel economy are often purchased by the major oil companies and are never heard from again. As we get closer to scarcity of oil, those patents should be worth a whole lot more than they are now. How much would most car manufacturers pay to be able to license a technology that would allow them to keep producing cars that were substantially more efficient than their competitors?

    For places where efficiency couldn't be substantially improved, I agree with TLHarrell that recycling might actually become valuable as an industry. Seeing as it takes most plastics a long time to decompose, that would likely provide a fairly lengthy supply if economical.
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    Anodized. Again. Konrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    Biofuels can be developed into a promising market, as well. Not so sure about fuel cell tech, it seems like it involves too many tradeoffs and inefficiencies and costs to pack fuel cell platforms with the convenient middly-energy-density they can provide on the go.

    Petrochemical recycling is a great angle! The question seems to be whether such innovations will be driven by startups or whether the major automotive megacorps will muscle themselves into dominating the marketing, logistics, and engineering behind it all.
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    Moderator TLHarrell's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    I'm not sure bio fuels are really going to go too far. At the current time, it requires more engergy input into the system (planting, raising, processing) than you get out of it. It also displaces food crops, inflating food prices. I don't think it's going to become a serious contender in the market unless there's some really big breakthrough.
    I have a hammer! I can put things together! I can knock things apart! I can alter my environment at will and make an incredible din all the while! -Calvin

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    Anodized. Again. Konrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    Ah, but the question becomes: when will we reach the threshold at which biofuel and food crops are equally profitable?

    Food won't get any cheaper, more people need to eat food all the time. Perhaps not enough food capacity to sustain future population growth. But food is a renewable resource, even if (eventually) there's not enough of it to go around.

    But fuel and energy become more costly and less available at a faster rate, I think, as demand for them also continues to rise yet available reserves deplete. Without an option like the above-mentioned petroleum extraction from recycled plastics (which is also an energy-intensive and finite resource) it will surely run dry at some point.

    Available land area is pretty much constant, and market realities mean that farmland owners will tend to plant whichever crop provides best revenue production for that land. This is why I think biofuels will emerge as a lucrative alternative, especially once market pressures encourage refinements to related power efficiency and technology.
    My mind says Technic, but my body says Duplo.

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    . Spawn-Inc's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    thorium based nuclear is the way to go from all the reading i've done on it.

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    Anodized. Again. Konrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: What Will the Major Oil Companies do When the World's Supply of Oil Finally Expir

    lol, Thorium looks great. Except for the "radioactive" part.

    I'm still waiting for betavoltaic cells to hit market - they'd be superb in mobile devices - but the "radioactive" detail means automatic and unbendingly stiff opposition from regulatory agencies, corporate investors, and end consumers.

    Alas, to be sure, there's gonna be idiots who rip all the factory-welded shielding off (thinking maybe they can gain mutant powers or build a nu-cu-lar bomb or something), and to be sure, most of those ignorant idiots will just end up getting mildly dosed with rads (hooray, Darwinism through cancer). But the deeper concern is that these morons will just flush the isotopic gunk down the toilet or something and end up poisoning us all. I'm just talking about cellphone-sized batteries, not vehicle-sized batteries. Overall, I don't think a little Tritium in my water would be as bad as a lot of Thorium would be.

    A civilization where every inbred bumpkin has the God-given right to own guns, cars, and radioactive isotopes. What's not to love?
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