There are only 50 years left until the oil reserves of planet Earth are exhausted. Despite this fact, the price of petroleum has plummeted and with it the price we pay at the pump has reduced as well, meaning several things: (1) Industry that depends on petroleum, such as logistics and energy production, is getting a boon in profits as the price of its most expensive cost has gone significantly down. (2) The incentive to switch to alternative energy has reduced as oil is a much more attractive investment. These two are related as recent political commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly thwarted as developing countries–so called “third wave economies”–take advantage of the low cost of petroleum to fuel their advancement to a modern economy. OPEC is responsible, and the motive, if not effect, is the death of the alternative energy market, at least in the short term.
The Paris Climate Deal
Despite the positivity of pundits worldwide, the Paris climate deal may be more rhetoric than reality.
“The Paris climate meeting left the world with a mixture of hope and uncertainty. The meeting ended with a deal among 195 nations to curb global temperature increases by slowing the rise in greenhouse-gas levels. It broke down the long-standing division between developed countries and developing countries that had stalled previous tries. And it created a timetable for nations to ratchet up their efforts. Yet the individual national climate plans could still result in as much as 3.5 degrees of warming by 2100. Provisions for individual nations to curb emissions further—crucial to limit warming to 2°C or less—have limited legal bite.”
China and India alone have 2.69 billion people and these are the fastest growing economies of the world. Although the United States remains among the highest in per capita oil consumption, as India and China modernize their economies, their combined populations of 10 times that of the Unites States means that not only could the exhaustion of oil happen much sooner than predicted, but also, the consequences for global warming could be catastrophic.
The doomsday scenarios are possible. We could, for example, run out of Oxygen, the most important gas for our survival; we cannot live without it. It is unlikely that OPEC has considered these scenarios when lowering global oil prices.
— The Progressive Mind (@Libertea2012) December 2, 2015
In fact, without serious intervention in cutting greenhouse gases (much greater than those agreed in Paris), we could be headed for a mini ice age.
— Plants ♥ CO2 (@PlantsLoveCO2) December 9, 2015
And there is yet another inevitability. As global warming causes flooding in coastal areas across the globe, migrants from developing nations in the hundreds of millions could be headed to the the West to escape uninhabitable areas.
— Stefania Rialti (@Strial14Rialti) December 20, 2015
The Delay of Alternative Energy
With the loss of petroleum soon to come, the way out is to convert to alternative energy. However, with petroleum prices so cheap–and no indication from OPEC that this will change anytime soon–and the advent of austerity in the United Kingdom and the United States, such as cutting subsidies to wind and solar power, this means that we are politically destroying any chance we have of shedding dependence on fossil fuel. The fact is that people will choose cheap oil over expensive renewables.
Add to this the confusion brought by politicians, such as Donald Trump, who are ignorant of science, and deny a problem even exists, and the human race is truly doomed.
[Image by Lesserland (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons]