see original post here: http://www.psychblog.com/3-reasons-why-we-don%e2%80%99t-care-about-the-environment-2010-06
Oil is great: it has a high energy density, can be distilled and ‘cracked’ into many valuable products, and even more importantly, it’s a liquid.
Oil is terrible: it makes a mess when extracted, makes a mess when burned, and is now chiefly found in difficult places–places with structural societal problems (poor governance, high poverty rates; and in places difficult to access due to geography, such as on the ocean floor or in the arctic.
Because so much of our infrastructure is dependent on oil and petrochemical products, we’re stuck with it for at least the foreseeable future. The best we can do is to engineer a phaseout: reducing use of oil as a fuel (our successors will ask with incredulity: “you -burned- oil?”) with the goal of eventually eliminating its use, and to reduce its use as much as possible as a base stock for petrochemicals and hydrocarbon plastics.
This will not be easy to do technically, and will be even more difficult to do politically. Entire nations’ economies are built on oil, and most are in a terribly precarious situation–a large and underemployed population which will be in a much worse mood when the foreign currency stops flowing when the oil stops flowing. Can Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and other nations build a non-oil dependent economy to support their citizens? (Saudi Arabia, of the above, occupies potentially the most dangerous position, given its relative lack of other resources and human-capital intensive-jobs)
The ruling classes of oil-dependent nations are not likely to relinquish their power so easily–although investing now in infrastructure and systemic change will make life much better for most people (although it seems too easy for the rich and powerful to escape to St. Moritz when the country collapses, that may be getting harder).
International, nongovernmental, and public pressure could have an effect on this transition behavior-putting the ‘writing on the wall’ so to speak so the sheiks get the idea that something must be done now (like Norway’s ‘rainy day (i.e. post oil) fund’ to get ready for the future. A post-oil future.
No matter what you wish to think, the future is coming.