It was just 1859 when Edwin L. Drake drilled successfully for oil on a farm in north western Pennsylvania.
Even when the black gold began to flow, few people could have imagined the discovery would end up powering the most vigorous, relentless and ultimately damaging part of the industrial revolution. As we know, feats of travel, building and farming that were previously impossible became the norm.
Clearly oil reserves are finite – it’s only a matter of when they run out – not if. Crude oil reserves are reducing at the rate of 4 billion tonnes a year – if we carry on at this rate without any increase for our growing population or aspirations, our known oil deposits will be gone by 2052.
But the rate at which the world consumes oil is not standing still, it is increasing as the world’s population increases and as living standards rise in parts of the world that until recently had consumed very little energy.
Oil will therefore run out earlier.
So, not only will we need to find a new fuel source but we are now having to deal with the consequences of the huge increase in CO₂ in our atmosphere.
If you are concerned have a look our section called CO₂ – Why should I care?« Is a Boeing 747’s fuel consumption better or worse than your car? | Our water treatment plants are under severe pressure »