This is not science fiction or life 100 years from now. No, we must prepare now for life without oil. Nobody likes to be told they are going to have to change their lifestyle but we can either do it in a planned and coordinated way or it will be imposed on us by economics.

The dirty truth is the world is running out of oil. Each year the discoveries do not keep up with the increased consumption. Oh yes, we can drill in the Arctic, off the coasts of California, Florida and New England and extend the inevitable by a dozen years.

We can mine the oil tars of Canada and the oil shale of this country and add another handful of years; however, these sources will certainly come at a premium price. We must face the fact that there is a finite resource of oil. This has been obvious for more than 30 years, but now we are coming to crunch time.

The consumption in this country continues to rise, causing us to import 70 percent of our requirements and sending $700 billion out of the country each year. Compounding the problem are the rising economies of China and India, which have made dramatic entrances on to the world economic scene. The consumption of energy for these two countries has been every bit as dramatic. The economic balance of the world is shifting.

Cheap energy is a thing of the past. It is time that Americans realize that it will not be business as usual. Gasoline at $4 a gallon and heating oil at more than $4 a gallon is the tip of the iceberg. However, it is the first thing that has caught the attention of the American public in general.

Global warming also enters the stage. Oil, coal and natural gas are clearly adding to the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. How much this is contributing to the natural warming cycle is debatable but pollution is not. We are actually at a momentous juncture in world history. For more than 100 years our country and the world has be driven by oil. We are in the twilight of that era.

It is the rare problem that does not provide opportunity or as a sailor might say, “It is an ill wind indeed that does not provide some good.” Actually we are on the cusp of change that can provide wonderful benefits to all citizens. Alternative energies available to us now such as wind power, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wave energy and bio-fuels all are renewable, sustainable, stable, non-polluting, cost effective (in most cases), locally producible and the money stays at home.

In addition, the cost of this energy is very predictable that permits fixed cost energy contacts. Ask your oil company to give you a 10-year fixed price contract. Can you imagine what the $700 million per year we are sending to foreign countries could do for each and every American? Add to that the $300 billion we are spending for domestic oil.

This does not count the billions in tax subsidies we are spending in a variety of ways for oil exploration, protection of the oil sources, pollution abatement and health benefits. It would seem here that we should be heralding the fantastic opportunity that has been made available.

Several years ago, technology had not progressed to the point where wind, solar and other forms of alternative energy could compete with oil. With oil on a seemingly ever rising trajectory and alternative energies going in the other direction we are witnessing the beginning of the “changing of the guard.”

We are living in exciting times. Surely the glass is half full.

Jack Bash is a resident of Cornish and the past executive director of the Hydrogen Energy Center in Maine. He has recently retired from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island where he served as Marine Superintendent and Science Officer. He can be reached at [email protected]


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