When you have a problem, lets say for example being an alcoholic, the first step is to admit that there is a problem. Therefore, I suggest that nearly every person in the U.S. needs to stand up right now and say, out loud, "I, (insert your name here), drive a car everyday and have an addicition to oil." There, doesn't that feel better?
I say nearly because there are many of us that attempt to witdrawl ourselves from the oil consumption equation, but even with serious effort it is close to impossible to completely irradicate ourselves (maybe you take the bus, Zip Car, etc). According to the U.S. Government the increase in dollars spent over the last few years has grown at an exponential level as
witnessed by the below graph.
Additionally, we have gone from below $1 billion to near $300 billion in a matter of 35 years. This does not account for the consumption of many of the worlds fastest growing consumers,
China and India. When we figure about how much oil we will be able to squeeze out of our planet we must think about these consumers and about where this will leave us over the next 35 years?
This leads us to consider how soon we are going to approach peak oil conditions on our planet. Peak oil is defined by Wikipedia as, "the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline". This is a topic of much debate amongst scientists, because no one knows how much oil was present when we first began harvesting oil. Some scientists believe that it has already passed, we are already in the decline stage; while others feel as though we have many years left. However, despite how you measure it there is one evident fact in any case, we ARE going to run out of oil. This is something that we all must figure into our daily consumption decisions or else we will end up in a similar boat (or car) as this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow depicts.
We are on a fast track down a slippery slope and if each of us doesn't do something to stop this then we all will have to face the consequences and we all will have to take responsibility.
Another way to approach our dilema is to view the economic effects of our oil consumption habits. Somewhere near the mid 1980's it became more expensive to pull oil out of the ground in the U.S. then to import it from another country. This was due to the huge capital overhead involved with oil drilling and production, U.S. companies found it very difficult to operate domestically and still turn a profit. Therefore, as depicted by the below graph we began a steady climb up the hill of imports. Each year, as our consumption increases, this trend will become gradually worse, with the exception of 2008 when crude oil prices were exceptionally high and the companies holding on to the oil rights in the U.S. decided to begin drilling because the profits had returned to the industry. However, this trend is already on the decline with many of those sites never reaching completion, because of the change in oil prices again. This leaves us in a position of shipping most of our money overseas, to unstable governments in countries that are claiming huge gains on our habits.
Therefore, I propose that we all consider each and every idea that is proposed on this site and others like it. I am not saying that these ideas are valid, they all need some research, but I am saying that we should at least consider each of them. We must be careful not to fall into the "that's ridiculous" trap, where we think putting air in our tires for 5% increased mpg is not worth it. Of course it's worth it! Every little bit helps because we do not have an end game yet. The world governments have not yet put a plan into action that will allow us to move away from oil. I don't know whether it will be hydrogen, nuclear, or some other form of alternative bio-fuel, but one thing I do know is it won't be oil forever. Since we have started commercial production and record keeping we have consumed 900 million barrels, it is believed that there is approximately 1 - 2 billion barrels of oil left in the planet, depending on who you trust (scientists or the U.S. government). By my math that leaves the fuel gauge on the planet close to 1/2 full with no "gas stations" in sight on the horizon. Are we going to continue driving with our pedal to the floorboard and watch the guage drop? Or, are we going to slowly release the pedal, adjust to the new speed, and spend our saved resources on research to alleviate the pressure on our planets natural resources? It's your decision...