I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.
Real thinking, beyond things like “what am I going to cook for dinner”.
I have more and more found myself thinking about what if.
It all started innocently enough. I was working on ideas for my NaNoWriMo project, when the thought just occurred to me.
What if, one day, in one fell swoop, every oil well on the planet simply dried up.
No warning, no decades of preparation, just dry.
In my story I was going to have science develop a bacteria that eats oil. You know, something to pour into the water the next time an oil rig blows up. Something that sounds like a good idea, right up until it turns out to be a bad idea.
In the case of my story, the bacteria had spread and multiplied beyond what it was designed to do and essentially ate the world’s oil supply.
The reasons that my mind was taking a walk down Apocalypse Lane are really not important though, at least not now.
More important by far is what I saw when I took that walk.
I started with that first what if, and started thinking about what the effects would be. I opened up my mind’s eye and I could see things clicking together like the pieces of a puzzle. Actually it would be more accurate to call it a house of cards.
That was the day I realized just how much we depend on the energy we derive from fossil fuels.
The first and most obvious thing that would happen is that within a week or two my cars would all become nothing but lawn ornaments, slowly rusting away as there would no longer be a way to get fuel for them. I would bet just about anything that within a week all remaining petroleum supplies would be federalized to keep the military and emergency services functioning as a more long term solution was found.
I suppose if I were driving a diesel I could try to use Bio-diesel, vegetable oils, or other alternative fuels, but likely those would be federalized pretty quickly as well to keep vital systems online.
Then I asked myself, what happens when the trucks and trains stop running?
What happens when no more supplies are reaching cities?
Thats where I think whatever bio-diesel we are able to produce would go. It would go to bringing food and other vital supplies to where it needed to be. There simply would not be enough left over for recreational use.
As I continued with the world building for my tale I started thinking about what other ways the loss of oil would affect things. After all, I am a maintenance guy. I fix things both for a living and for fun. Some people just see separate things, I see systems, interactions, everything is part of a puzzle, even you and I.
One of the primary things I do is look at interactions, cause and effect. I see the effects, and use that to tell me the cause. It’s what I have done my whole life, and I consider myself pretty damn good at it.
This time I am looking at a cause and trying to predict the effects.
Let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.
If the oil goes away what goes with it?
Heating and lubricating oils.
Many plastics, and a lot of artificial rubber.
Add synthetic fibers like Nylon and Rayon into the mix.
Asphalt (though it won’t be needed near as much, since most cars will be obsolete)
It’s used in the pharmaceutical industry for some drugs, and in the crafting of damn near everything.
Whether it’s an actual part of the product or not, oil is used to make just about everything we touch. It’s so prevalent that attempting to live in such a way that you used none would be very difficult.
What happens to the house of cards when someone comes along and pokes the base real hard with a big stick?
It all comes crashing down.
Look at it from a local level, instead of globally. Focus on the small scale, you and your immediate family and friends.
How would you heat your house this winter?
Where would your food come from?
How would you get to work?
Would you even still have a job?
What would your community look like a year later?
How about after five years?
The more I think about it the more I realise, 150 years ago the only oil we burned was to light lamps against the darkness. People survived, indeed they thrived, without oil.
People would go back to it, they would adapt and survive. As a race, we would go on.
The world though, it would be a very very different place.
What would you do if suddenly all the technology you use everyday without thinking about it suddenly just went away?
Yes, the world would be a different place. How would you fit into it?
Would you be able to adapt, or would you be one of the many that perished in the attempt?
Are you so addicted to technology that you would literally die of withdrawals if it you couldn’t get your fix?
Just something to think about.
Happy Earth Day.