Oil addiction

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Global oil production, 1965-2008


fr:L'humanité est dopée par un engrais concentréThe United States in particular, and the global economy in general, depends heavily on non-renewable fossil oil as a fuel for transportation. More specifically, it depends upon oil remaining relatively inexpensive.

Unfortunately, the pre-eminence of oil extraction as an industry has led to the gradual entrenchment of powers with an invested interest in maintaining this dependence and, by extension, preventing the development of alternative energy sources. As a result, we find ourselves not only dependent, but unable to break away even when we clearly see it is in our best interests – in other words, addicted.

This page is in need of updating. Much of the content of this page should be moved to peak oil. Older news links need to be filed, and there are a number of other minor fixes needed.


In practical terms, a "fuel" is any substance which can hold enough energy to power a reasonably-sized vehicle for a distance of at least several hundred miles while fitting into a container small enough to be carried by that same vehicle. The key fact here is not that the fuel provides the energy, but that it contains it. An extension cord plugged into a household power socket can provide a lot of energy, but you can't take it very far. Conversely, most batteries (anything from a miniscule Lithium watch battery to an automotive wet-cell battery) are quite portable, but cannot hold enough power to move a vehicle any useful distance.

The most important thing about oil, which is even more true once it is refined into chemicals such as gasoline (petrolium) and diesel, is that it has a high energy-to-volume ratio – in other words, you can pack a lot of energy into a relatively small space. There are very few substances which approach this density, and most of them create other problems -- hydrogen, for example, is far more combustible than gasoline, and is extremely hazardous to transport in quantities large enough to be useful as a fuel.

Finite Supply

To the best of our knowledge, naturally-occurring oil is formed by the actions of heated chemicals under extreme pressure over "geological time scales" (millions of years), and therefore is not something of which we can quickly make more. Once the naturally-occurring supplies have been exhausted ([1]), we will need to have found either an alternate method of production or a better means of storing energy.

Environmental Effects

(to be written) Some data here: [2]

Related Pages




  • Stop Oil Speculators "Speculators and investment banks can game the energy trading markets, using loopholes in commodities law to drive up the cost of energy and reap record profits... at the expense of American families and small businesses!" This site is more about reducing/preventing the exploitation of oil dependence rather than reducing oil dependence itself; should probably go on a page about high gas prices and the way the Republicans are using those high prices to argue for more domestic drilling
  • Dollar a gallon gasoline: how-to/editorial page started by H. Keith Henson

Filed Links

  1. redirect template:links/smw

Possible Solutions

  • Fuel Oil Synthesis: If gasoline and diesel could be synthesized from renewable resources, all we'd have to deal with would be the environmental effects
  • Alternative Portable Energy: There are other ways to store energy so that it can be used portably; the trick is getting the energy density high enough.
    • Apparently electric cars have nonetheless been within the realm of practicality for some time
  • 2006-02-17 Kids Build Soybean-Fueled Car that gets 50 MPG (2006-03-01 slashdot)
  • oil plenitude: some people argue that oil supplies are in effect inexhaustible (and oil combustion isn't causing any real environmental problems, either) so we shouldn't be worrying about it

Editorials & Articles