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What Happens When the World's Oil Runs Out?

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  • 0:04 Societal Issues & Consequences
  • 1:30 Solutions
  • 2:36 A World Without Oil
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allyn Torres

Allyn has taught high school chemistry, and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson you will learn about the consequences of society's reliance on oil. The societal issues of using oil, solutions to these issues, and what will happen if the world runs out of oil will be discussed.

Societal Issues & Consequences

If you've ever been without electricity for more than a few hours, you know just how inconvenient that can be. Suddenly, you can't use your computer, charge your phone, and maybe cook (depending on the type of stove you have).

Now imagine that scenario isn't just a temporary situation, it's your life. Even worse, you can't drive anywhere either. This might sound far fetched, but if the world runs out of oil, this could become reality. Keep watching to learn more about the implications of relying on oil.

Crude oil, which is basically just petroleum that comes from the ground, takes millions of years to form under the earth's surface. In this day and age, we use oil much quicker than it's formed. This is a problem because eventually we'll run out. In fact, it's estimated that if the world continues to use oil at the rate we do now, we'll run out in about 30 years. Many of us are planning on still being here in 30 years, so we need to find a solution.

In addition to the threat of running out of oil, there's the consideration that oil and oil drilling are not great for the environment. Oil is often transported across the oceans in ships. In the process, there are sometimes oil spills in the ocean. Oil spills can kill marine life and ruin beaches. When oil drilling is taking place, animals get displaced and ecosystems can be disturbed or killed off. As if that weren't enough, oil can also pollute our air. When oil is burned as part of the gasoline in cars, gases are released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Solutions

Some alternatives to oil have been proposed. You may have seen some of these alternatives driving down the road. Hybrid cars, cars that run partly on electricity and partly on gasoline, have been an early answer to the oil problem. Some companies have proposed 100% electric cars. As of right now these are not able to drive far distances, however. Perhaps this technology will become a higher priority when oil runs out.

Another interesting alternative is the use of biofuels. Biofuels are fuels produced from organic materials like plants. Biofuels are cost efficient (like $0.51 a gallon), and they reduce the emissions of methane and other atmosphere-harming gases by 20%.

Many agencies are doing working to clean up oil spills that have occurred in oceans and other bodies of water. One of the methods involves using barriers to contain the oil, and then skimming it off the surface. However, this method doesn't work well in windy conditions or on rocky seas. Putting a chemical into the water that helps break up oil is another solution. Breaking up the oil allows it to mix with the water. This dilutes the oil and makes its effects much less severe.

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