Oil Based Society This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Most of the countries in the world depend on crude oil and its many by-products. With the world's oil supply expected to run out in fifty to ninety years, very little time remains to find a safe, plentiful, and efficient alternative energy source. If none is found, the society we know will plunge into vicious energy wars and anarchy that will far surpass the Holocaust as man struggles to survive.

Oil is tied to most of the things we buy. All plastics are made of distilled crude oil. They are not just used in children's toys and food packaging but also in cars, airplanes, computers, and medical equipment. It is also used to insulate wires and homes, to strengthen alloys, and to cut down weight. A plastic shortage alone would create more problems than if the steel supply ran out.

Oil is also distilled to provide many degrees of lubrication and volatility. Wax, heating oil, gasoline, polyester, and many laboratory chemicals are made from petroleum. There is no readily attainable substitute for these commonly used articles and many processes would grind to a halt, especially transportation and electricity production.

If transportation costs increased, the price of consumer goods would show a proportional increase since most of the food we eat must be brought in from the Midwest by either trains or refrigerated tractor trailers, but that is not all. Clothing, dry goods, autos, electronics, and even the mail often travel great distances before reaching their destinations. The percentage of poor people would increase as the cost of living skyrocketed. Social programs would be severely strained as they try to bridge the gap formed by salaries with far less buying power.

When the oil eventually runs out, nuclear, solar, wind, and natural gas power plants will not be able to compensate for the loss It is readily apparent that any disruption in the oil industry would have disastrous consequences and that a serious disruption looms in the near future. So what can be done?

Alternative energy sources must be designed and expanded. While hydroelectric power output is unable to expand mainly because of geographical limitations, solar power remains a largely untapped resource. Nuclear reactors could be made to a standard, safe design or cleaner fusion reactors could be put on line if a way is found to control the reaction. Ethanol could replace gasoline as fuel and magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) could combust coal without producing a large amount of pollutants.

The machines that use the power must be made far more efficient. There are already products on the market such as fluorescent light bulbs, triple paned windows, and economy cars that would save vast amounts of energy if used by a large number of people. There is no sense in having inefficient products competing for the same small amount of energy.

To implement these changes, the federal government will have to pay for some of the research costs. Alternative energy research funding was slashed by the Reagan and Bush administrations. Current options such as drilling offshore and in the Alaskan wilderness will provide only a short-term solution and harm those fragile ecosystems.

No longer can society take a reliable source of energy for granted The world community must plan ahead to ensure a smooth transition from oil power to some other source, or face a total disintegration of any world order that might exist. These changes must also have the support of a large number of the population for them to work. This energy crisis must be solved by all of us, not some of us. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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