Drive by any gas station or turn on the news, and you’ll notice something very disconcerting about gas prices. They seem to be going and going and going-up, that is. And they don’t seem to be coming down. Let’s face it-we only have so much oil in the ground, and we’re running out, fast. Chevron recently launched an ad campaign, in which the company all but admitted the fact that oil is getting scarcer and scarcer, and something need to be done about it-joining other such voices like Michael Moore and former Bush energy advisor Matthew Simmons.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if a major oil company says their product is running out, something serious might be going on (despite the fact that the major oil companies will make obscene profits due to the situation).
As of this weekend, crude oil was selling for over $75 a barrel, and gas is pushing $3 a gallon in many parts of the country-and analysts agree they’re not coming down anytime soon. Don’t have a car? Don’t think you’re off the hook yet-everything you buy, from your food and beer to your clothes and iPod, has to be shipped to the stores you buy them from. As fuel becomes more expensive, shipping will become more expensive, and in turn, the final product will become more expensive.
And that’s just shipping. Many products incorporate oil one way or another, such as fertilizers and plastics, which are actually made from petroleum. Not to mention the fact that we get our electricity by burning oil at power plants. Most every modern convenience depends on electricity, plastics or both: computers, the Internet, CDs, DVDs. I could go on.
Obviously, such high prices for oil (and as a result, everything else) won’t do the economy any good-over time, it can make the Great Depression look tame by comparison. As inflation skyrockets and prices become prohibitively expensive, people will be less able to drive to work, or to the grocery store. Basic commodities will become unaffordable. As poverty levels and crime rates steadily increase, it will put more pressure on an already strained government to try and maintain order.
And let’s not forget that China’s thirst for fuel is just as insatiable as ours, which can spur competition for the last remaining oil. It bears mentioning that China can actually put up a fight if need be, and any conflict with China is bound to get nasty.
However, in spite of such a dire forecast, there is some good that will come out of it. As it becomes clearer that an oil-based economy is not sustainable, then nifty alternatives, such as renewable energy, hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels will become economically viable and slowly put into place.
Of course, we as a global community will still have to weather the storm looming over the horizon, but depending on how we come together and cope with the reality of oil depletion, the world could come out a better place-one which engenders conservation and respect for the environment while shunning greedy and destructive practices.
It will truly be the end of an era.
Jay Rooney is a junior majoring in journalism and history. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.