The End of the Oil Age

Oil is a naturally occurring liquid found within rock formations. Oil has been used for over 5000 years by humans but only where it was easily accessible. The growing energy demands of humans were met previously by wood, coal and whale oil.

In the 1850s, the world saw the first successful use of a ‘modern’ drilling rig on a well drilled specifically to produce oil. If it weren’t for this, there probably wouldn’t be any whales left in the world. We would have massacred every one to light our homes. And that’s where the benevolence of the ‘oil industry’ starts and stops.

In the 1980s, I first heard of the term ‘peak oil’. It was the idea that the mining and refining of oil would get to the point where it could become uneconomical to produce petroleum products. As it happened, government subsidies and vast increases in price meant that peak oil was met, passed and reclassified. We would just pay more for fossil fuel; we were fossil fuel addicts.

Modern oil drilling only started in the late 1850s on continental North America. Now, 160 years later, we can see the end of the “oil age”. You only have to look at the pumps here in the UK – rising more than 30% in less than 5 years.

I would encourage everyone to look at lower consumption technology – not just transport and heating but also computing. Solar panels have dropped more than 80% in cost in the last five years (per Watt). A house can be cheaply kitted out with solar panels and a wind turbine to provide the majority of a household energy needs (storage is an issue, but distribution is not). Solutions for storage will evolve.