What happens when we run out of crude oil?

21 Answers

Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered

Many predictions abound about when the human race will run out of its oil reserves, with most predictions setting the date at around 50 - 70 years from now. If we do run out of oil, this will have devastating knock on effects for civilization, as we currently rely on oil as a means of fuel, electricity generation and many other essential things. If we are to survive we will need to find some alternative means of powering our world. Here are some suggestions:


  • Windpower

  • Hydropower

  • Solar energy

  • Biomass

  • Biofuel

  • Geothermal energy



Windpower is the use of naturally occurring winds to drive massive wind turbines, generating electrical power as they do so. The output of a wind turbine is between 600kW to 5MW of power, although as wind speeds grow in strength so too does the electrical output. Because of this, areas where winds are generally higher and more constant, such as out at sea or on tall hillsides, are preferred sites for the installation of a wind farm. Wind power is said to be able to provide 40 times what the current population of the world demands in electricity, so obviously it is a popular choice. Offshore sites experience up to 90% higher winds than land areas, so expect to see plenty more offshore wind farms pop up in the future.

Hydropower is the use of water and in particular harnessing its energy. Water is 800 times denser than air, and so even a slow moving stream or a gentle sea swell can yield comparatively great amounts of energy. Hydroelectricity usually requires the use of dams. Water runs from a reservoir at the top of the dam through a water turbine,  generating energy as it does so. Micro hydro systems are basically the same, but on a much smaller scale, producing a significantly smaller amount of energy. They are typically used in rich water areas, and there are many of these installations around the world. Run-of-the-river systems take kinetic energy from the flow of the river without need for a dam of any kind, and ocean energy is used to describe all the technologies that harness the power of the seas, including tidal energy.

Solar energy is energy captured from the sun in the form of solar radiation. There is usually a need for large solar panels to capture the energy and convert it into power for electrical appliances etc. However, solar energy is not available at night for obvious reasons, and it generally unavailable during overcast conditions too. Because of this, energy storage is a big issue in the world of solar energy.

Biomass, the use of plant materials to create energy. It is considered a renewable source of energy because the energy contained within the plant matter originally came from the sun. Through photosynthesis, the plants capture the sun's energy, and then when the plants are burned, they release this energy again, which can be used to boil water to drive turbines etc. A good analogy for the process would be to think of plants as a sort of solar battery for storing the sun's energy. So long as biomass production is sustained, this 'battery' will last for an indefinite amount of time. Sometimes plants are grown for the specific purpose of biomass energy, but at other times residues from plants that are used for other things, and the approaches vary between regions, depending on climates.

Biofuel is similar in many ways to biomass, and includes a wide range of fuels that are derived from it. Bioethanol is a type of bioalcohol, which is a liquid biofuel. It is made by fermenting the carbohydrate components of plant material, and is widely used as a vehicle fuel in Brazil and the USA. Biodiesel, another example of a liquid biofuel, is made from vegetable oils, animal fats and recycled greases. It can be used as vehicle fuel in its purest form, but is usually used as a diesel additive to cut down down on pollutants in diesel emissions. It is the most common biofuel in Europe. Biofuels provided 1.8% of all of the world's fuel usage as of 2008. The International Energy Agency states that biofuels could potentially meet more than a quarter of the world population's demands for vehicle fuel by 2050.

So, there are many alternatives to oil as a fuel if we ever run out of oil. Although, some analysts believe we will never actually run out of oil. Mike Moffat, former guide of About.com, has this to say on the subject:

"There will still be oil in the ground 10 years from now, and 50 years from now and 500 years from now. This will hold true no matter if you take a pessimistic or optimistic view about the amount of oil still available to be extracted. Let's suppose that the supply really is quite limited. What will happen as the supply starts to diminish? First we would expect to see some wells run dry and either be replaced with new wells that have higher associated costs or not be replaced at all. Either of these would cause the price at the pump to rise. When the price of gasoline rises, people naturally buy less of it; the amount of this reduction being determined by the amount of the price increase and the consumer's elasticity of demand for gasoline. This does not necessarily mean that people will drive less (though it is likely), it may mean that consumers trade in their SUVs for smaller cars, hybrid vehicles, or cars that run on alternative fuels. Each consumer will react to the price change differently, so we would expect to see everything from more people bicycling to work to used car lots full of Lincoln Navigators."

So there you have it, if oil does run out, there are plenty of alternatives which need developing admittedly, but by the time they are really needed, will be ready to go. And some people dispute the fact we will ever run out of oil in the first place.

Rhuen Farquharson Profile
The speed at which our technologies are being developed we will probably not even have the need for crude oil by the time it runs out (that is if it ever runs out). Take for example a cellular phone which use to require 12 volts of electricity is now so miniaturized that it only now require about 3 volts or even less than that. Scientists now find ways to make vehicles lighter therefore less fuel or lighter fuel. Some things that people normally travel to do can now be done over the internet. It is now possible for us to stay home and do the things we normally go to work to do via remote control and close circuit television. I could go on and on to prove that we can have life easy without crude oil.
Brenda May Profile
Brenda May answered
You will see a lot of people who used to commute to work, working local as they would start either walking to work or cycling. And, I think that the local job markets and businesses would reflect and accomodate this major change. People who live far away on farms would expound on that, and things might take a turn towards the past a bit. People would consider a night on the town more carefully and with more pleasure, in comparision to taking it for granted as is now. Folks will do more at home instead of elsewhere, like more family time at home and such. We will configure our lives to suit the situation as we always do...one step at a time too, as is the usual.
Eric Fortin Profile
Eric Fortin answered
Tritium (Hydrogen-3) will be the answer. It exists in abundance in the universe, but not a lot on Earth. H3 will be one of the first elements mined when we settle the moon.
Mark Mottian Profile
Mark Mottian answered
The prime sector that will be affected by the ‘extinction’ of crude oil is transportation. Around 60% - 70% of petroleum is used for the production of fuels for transport. Such fuels comprise: Liquefied petroleum gas, ethane, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene and jet fuel.

Perhaps we could switch to different biofuels for the standard internal combustion engine. Ethanol, propanol, biobutanol are the chief biofuels which are being produced from plant waste. Biodiesel, which is made from the fatty acid methyl (extracted from animal fats) and food oils, is also being introduced for diesel engines. Hydrogen in hydrogen vehicles as well as natural gas in natural gas vehicles is also being encouraged. Scientists are also developing advanced technologies for more efficient electric vehicles like hybrid vehicles and solar vehicles.

Roughly 20% - 30% of petroleum is used to make petrochemicals like adhesives, carpets, cosmetics, fertilizers, paints, rubber, fabrics and plastics, to name a few. Since, petrochemicals have relied so heavily on petroleum; researchers are studying new ways of replacing petroleum with a plant-derived sugar! Since this is a renewable as well as a cost-effective resource, scientists believe that this plant-derived sugar will form the basis of hundreds of petrochemicals! Natural gas could also aid in supplying additional petrochemicals.

Lastly, about 2% of petroleum is used for power generation. Some renewable energy alternatives include: Solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, tidal/wave energy, hydroelectric energy, biomass and biofuels.
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Jackieboy Master
Jackieboy Master commented
Worldwide, around 11% of crude oil is used for transportation purposes. 10% is used to make plastic bottles to hold water (and other drinks), about 12% is used for other things. The other 67% (roughly) we burn to create electricity. - a bit more than 2%.
lucek chuck Profile
lucek chuck answered
Actually it's pretty bleak. People focus on the fact we'll have to switch from gas to other energy sources but that's a miner effect. The biggest thing is we'll have to find another way of producing fertilizer just to feed the 7 billion + people on earth. Other things like some medicines and plastics needed for everyday life will disappear overnight. Oil is the resource basically keeping 6 out of 7 billion people alive and we're just burning it.
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Jackieboy Master
Jackieboy Master commented
Most nitrate fertilizers are produced without using any oil at all, although a tiny percentage of oil-based products are used to make pesticides. Plastics, convenient though they are, are not really needed for everyday life. Life proceeded very well up until the late 1950's when plastics started to arrive in everyday life. The major use of oil world-wide is for energy generation, hardly a minor effect.
lucek chuck
lucek chuck commented
True most ammonia is produced by natural gas not crude but the point is still there. I was including both as part of oil when I should have said fossil fuels.
Jackieboy Master
Jackieboy Master commented
No, Ammonia does not come from natural gas - it has very little. Ammonia is produced using nitrogen from the air, mainly using the Haber process. Go and do a little research before answering tech questions. :)
Gordon Somerville Profile
I agree with many of the alternative energy sources already mentioned. The
good news, when crude oil is gone (or not used anymore) we have less carbon dioxide, and more importantly: Less global warming. Mankind is destroying the planet already.
Rich Kaiser Profile
Rich Kaiser answered
It's actually quite simple. When we run out of crude oil in the planet, Mobil, Chevron and some of the others will then have their business models perfected for controlling the dispersion of Hydrogen, Algae and every other possible fuel we can use. Sure its free or we can make it at home. The fact is by yourself, you can't make enough to keep up with today's lifestyle even just for yourself. Technically the oil is free, just start digging and see if you can find it. Sure its not clean but it was a very easy fuel to use and therefore became very widespread. Now the vast majority of infrastructure relies on it.

Ask yourself: If you were in business for say a hundred years, if your general infrastructure to operate has been in place for just as long and is easily upgraded. If your business model was now rock solid with so many years of refining it (pun intended). If each year your profits out grew the previous year by billions, If the vast majority of the world blindly relied on your product. If the mere fact that it will run out drives up the price along with exploitable situations like Mid East un-rest. Would you really allow an alternative fuel to truly grow in widespread use? If you are not this person / business then you might say no but that's simply because you don't know what its like to be in that position. But if you are this person you will make sure you protect your product. You buy up what could be a true viable alternative behind  the façade of investing in the future or going green. Don’t let things like this: www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/07/14/14greenwire-exxon-sinks-600 make a fool of you.

Another good way to keep other fuel sources at bay is to continue to refer to them as alternative. That alone just sounds unique, expensive and unavailable.

We already have every bit of technology we need to be completely green on free energy. But we need to be serious, that would just completely dismantle the largest industry sector on the planet. No one will live to see that through.
Hugh Farrell Profile
Hugh Farrell answered
Hydrogen as it's cheap clean and the most abundant source in the universe
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lucek chuck
lucek chuck commented
By the way you meant sun correct? You don't foll Neal Adams do you?
Jackieboy Master
Jackieboy Master commented
I actually wrote sun, but I appear to have been edited. :)
Jackieboy Master
Jackieboy Master commented
And, Hydrogen fusion is EXTREMELY efficient, almost certainly the best source of energy short of matter/antimatter mutual annihilation.
bolt laser Profile
bolt laser answered
Wont happen. There has never been a way to measure the volume of subsurface fossil fuels. Its said theres actually more oil in Alaska than the middle east. Its more logical to use other countries resources now because crude oil is used in producing more products we use daily than you know. Today refineries are barely keeping up with the amount being pumped from oil rigs. Thats whats causes fuel prices to rise and fall. Nuclear energy is the cleanest energy source to produce but storing the waste is whats slowing it down. Our military has a way of processing waste faster and cleaner for better storage but there is so much political red tape for our private nuclear companies to have access to military nuclear technology.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
WALK. Ok the internet will still be here. But business will have to be local again. All the alternatives cost TOO MUCH. Where ever you are, plan on looking out for yourself!
I have already stopped using a car, distances grow, people who were two hours away are now a week or two, or a month, or even never.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered

By the time of crude oil scarcity we will find a new way to replace
crude oil. We are living in a  world of possibilities.

But we certainly
go through the phase of trouble when we oilruptyed . No need to worry
but we have to keep our eco system protected!

Garrick Frazier Profile
Garrick Frazier answered
Back in the day of the Romans They said what will happen when we run out of crude oil? How will we light our lamps what will happen we will be in the dark and no heat. They said they would run out in about 30 years. Well they worried for nothing just like people worry now. Some people are always going to say and try to prove their theory as to Scare and Control others. This is how they make money and try to gain Fame. Those who listen are the one's in School that is who they target and try to get them on their side. Sad we can not just live together and help each other instead of trying to take, and scare and try to control other's for money and fame. They have had cars that can run on water since 1952 and big oil a other's bought out the Patents. If the world leaders and money makers where really worried we would have cars already running on water don't you think? Any way worry about something useful like who can I HELP TODAY AND REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR WORLD AND YOURS NOW! Let the greed of others be watched by We The People and bring LOVE TO EVERY ONE. Don't be Crude and Oil your own life as to run Smooth and Happy. Good Luck!!!!
Jack TheJaxter Profile
Jack TheJaxter answered
Nuclear plants fueled by Thorium would produce far less (and less toxic) waste; we only use Uranium because the US Navy leadership chose it way back when, and everybody followed them...  We can also generate Hydrogen from algae (they do it now), and burn that to form water.But we're asking the wrong question.  Sure, we need to have alternative sources of energy, but who's working on how we'll feed 12 billion people by 2050, and where we'll put them?  If climate change continues fast enough, we'll be farming most of Canada and Siberia before long, just in time to replace the Midwest and the Ukraine...  Just think - the best waterfront property will be on Hudson Bay and the Aleutian Islands.  (You won't ever be able to farm Antarctica, because the winds are so strong - unless you can breed sheep with claws.)
Oddman Profile
Oddman answered
There is some evidence that crude oil is produced by subterranean lifeforms that live on the hydrocarbons that outgas from the materials forming the Earth. It will be an additional few billion years before we run out. We may have to match our rate of consumption better to the rate of production.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Heard that Toyota produced a car which can run on electricity and another one uses high pressure air to run the car
Ray Ottewell Profile
Ray Ottewell answered
With luck we will have learned how to burn hydrogen safely by then, if not there is always solar energy, and I am sure that it will be improved on in the coming years.
max loy Profile
max loy answered
Back to square one and we will get a whole new chance to make things better. I am being very optimistic we won't screw it up again.
Oschen Dsouza Profile
Oschen Dsouza answered
Alright this is wats going to happen first PETROL & DIESEL we run out 50 years from now, then NATURAL GAS & NUCLEAR 150 yrs from now we run out, then the expensive HYDROGEN, till we figure out cheaper ways of harnessing SOLAR ENERGY. In the simplest words possible.
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lucek chuck
lucek chuck commented
Peek oil doesn't look at current growth rate to be 50 years but we'll see, we'll go with that number for now, however the amount of fissionable material on earth could last us millenia if used correctly. We've not even started taping thorium for reactors and breeder reactors aren't being used to prevent nuclear proliferation not economics.

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