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After the peak of oil production, further production just keeps getting more expensive :



Added 2019-05-17 : Originally 2019-05-17

Quora Answer : What will people do when fossil fuels run out? Is it stupid to build a society around an unsustainable resource? Scientists say at the current rate of usage we have about 50 years of fossil fuels left. What then? Do you care?

Dec 2, 2017

The caveat that "we'll never run out of fossil fuels" is true, but facile.

We will, indeed, hit the end of fossil fuels that are practical to extract and use.

There's some argument about when that happens, and what happens as we start to get close to it.

People often talk about the "peak" of oil production. That's not the point when oil runs out, but when the oil starts getting increasingly "inefficient" to produce. We normally think of it in terms off "Energy Return on Investment" (EROI). Which you can understand as how many barrels of oil do you get from your oil production process for each barrel of oil you spend producing it.

Once we go over the peak, the trend starts to go in the wrong direction. Each barrel of oil costs a little bit more (terms of oil input) to produce than the previous one. Until eventually you hit a 1:1 ratio and it stops being efficient to produce more oil.

Now, of course, the peak can be moved. We discover a new oil-field. We invent a new extraction or distribution technology that's more energy efficient. The price of oil continues to fluctuate turbulently because of other economic factors rather than just follow a gradual slope upwards.

So it's hard to know where the peak is. Some people have predicted we've already passed it, some people think it's coming real soon. Some people think it's far enough in the future (like 50 years) that they don't have to worry.

Nevertheless, the basic principle is unarguably true. There is a peak, and we will, at some point go over it.

The only way to not think that is to believe either a) God is continually creating new oil in the earth. Or b) technology is going to eventually become so efficient that we will be able to produce oil for zero energy input.

There are people who believe a) and b). But none of them are geologists successfully involved in finding and producing oil.

So, yes, it is stupid to build a society around a resource which is almost certainly going to "run out" in the next couple of hundred years.

What we can hope is that we do get so efficient in our technology that we will eventually be able to run as much technology as we need from renewables such as solar and wind (and maybe wave / tide).

We might also use geothermal energy. It's not that this isn't going to run out too, but it will run out whether we tap it or not, so let's use it where practical.

The funny thing is that you get huge arguments, but basically everyone more or less agrees on the same principles. Everyone who doesn't think a) or b) above (which is all reasonably informed, intelligent people) know that one day humans have to move to sustainable resources.

The only argument is "attitude".

1) People who also worry about the polluting effects of fossil fuels and climate change say "we have to move to sustainable energy anyway. so let's do it as fast as possible to minimize the other negative effects of it and give ourselves plenty of time to deal with unforeseen emergencies"

2) People who think that you don't have to actively do anything because the renewable energy is coming fast enough anyway and will more or less pick up the slack and replace fossil fuels as and when the time is right. These people tend not to worry too much about pollution and think we should just chillax and everything will just work itself out. (Hopefully.)

3) People who are old, or heavily invested in the existing oil industry say "I'm going to die before it becomes a problem, so why should I put myself out to change anything?"