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Doomsday Scenario: A World Without Oil


Suppose the rapture happened. Not the kind followed by the Second Coming of Jesus as promised by Paul, but a rapture of oil.

Imagine that one night, just after the last parents finish tucking in their toddler after falling into a post-ice cream coma, that … poof! All of the world’s oil in untapped reserves vanished from the Earth into a Great Fossil Fuel Heaven.

What remains is just the oil that exists in government or private inventories – extremely limited in quantity.

Initially, this would lead to the speedy recovery of oil prices, which have suffered a decline over the past three years due to a massive supply gut. An output reduction deal by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a handful of non-members is no match for a disappearing act of biblical proportions.

In the United States, employers who require the physical presence of their employees to get work done will be the most disadvantaged. Vibrant cities like Houston – laden with six or eight lane highways carrying millions of gas-guzzling trucks – would see empty streets for the first time in their histories.

Oil and gas has had a stronghold on Texas economics since 1901, when the Powell Field was discovered in Corsicana. Cheap fuel coupled with consecutive Republican governments has stymied the growth of public transportation in the state, with liberal hotspot Austin being the main exception.

As a result, Houstonians and the residents of municipalities with similar economic makeups and zoning patterns have become dependent on cars to get groceries and go to work; in short, to live life.

Converting gasoline engines to natural gas engines would be the quickest solution to the transportation conundrum, though the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to make the change for hundreds of millions of vehicles. According to the Department of Energy, only 150,000 American vehicles are equipped with CNG engines.

Pakistan, which has fully embraced natural gas as a default car fuel, completed years of engine conversion drives and educational campaigns before making the big shift. There won’t be time for that in this doomsday scenario, in which 89 percent of Americans with oil-thirsty cars are left with metal carcasses.

Cosmopolitan businesses that offer work-life balance options that allow employees to complete their responsibilities online will best be able to navigate the new state of energy affairs in the short and medium terms.

Only one percent of the United States’ electricity is powered through oil, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2015 report on the matter.

Coal and natural gas, each taking a one-third share, dominate the American electricity generation market. Nuclear power and hydropower stand at distant third and fourth positions.

This means that in the short-term, the grid would likely still be active for a majority of Americans, despite the disappearance of oil for cars and other mass transit vehicles. But soon enough, the trains and trucks used to transport coal and natural gas to power plants will run out of petroleum as well, causing a supply issue for the grid’s suppliers.

Apart from transit and electricity, petroleum is used to make plastics, life-saving medications, toys, pens and more.

Growing food locally will likely become commonplace, as the fuel needed to bring fruits and vegetables to markets becomes better utilized to operate other necessary machines. Refrigeration could be a thing of the past as well, ushering in a new area of meats preserved by salting instead of freezing.

It is unlikely that anything in this article will happen as written, though peak oil may someday be a reality. So far, we have only discussed the impacts of an oil-less world to everyday Americans and comparable developed countries. But the biggest geopolitical upheavals will occur in countries across Africa, the Middle East and South America.

The oil price crisis that began with the crash of 2014 is just a taste of what can happen when huge portions of the international economy’s oil wealth dissipate. Revolution and sociopolitical collapse awaited several of the world’s petrostates before OPEC’s November output cut deal. Even now, markets are shaky, and 2.5 years of recession, inflation, salary withholding, and import restrictions are testing the patience of peoples around the world.

In the event that oil disappears altogether, nations such as Algeria, Venezuela and Nigeria, with no plans to diversify away from fossil fuel production as the core of the national economy, will be left rudderless.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have spent the past few decades investing their oil profits in massive sovereign wealth funds prepped for a “rainy day” in the desert. These states will be able to exploit the savings to keep it together as they spearhead internal economic revolutions without oil.

All of this does not even include the tribulations that will test the officials of China and India – two of the world’s fastest developing economies with the heaviest energy needs.

The development of renewable energy resources has just now gained momentum. The United Nations-led talks in Marrakesh last November brought countries to commit to a timeline for the gradual conversion of fossil fuel-based societies to green energy havens.

Host country Morocco has led the world in these efforts, with the most notable accomplishment to date being the commissioning of the Noor solar power complex in the desert city of Ouarzazate. At maximum capacity, the facility will power one million homes – providing clean power to just a fraction of the 35 million Moroccans living in country.

Still, at least Morocco plans to power 52 percent of its electrical needs through renewables by 2030. With 93 years of untapped natural gas reserves remaining in the U.S., the country will be pushed to switch from one fossil fuel to another via infrastructure investments for liquefied natural gas, should oil disappear.

Internationally, proven natural gas reserves rise by billions of barrels every year. As the technologies needed to extract previously inaccessible fossil fuels develop, economic obstacles for production will drop accordingly.

Even without oil, the likelihood that the planet would face a long-term energy drought is extremely low. A short adjustment period would be required in the improbable scenario that all the Earth’s oil disappears, or if all nations miraculously decide to keep from extracting any more oil from the planet’s crust. It won’t be pretty, but it will be passable.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for

27 Comments on "Doomsday Scenario: A World Without Oil"

  1. onlooker on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 8:59 am 

    My that is alot of hopium for one article. Careful what you wish for

  2. BobInget on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 9:42 am 

    Speaking of ‘doom’;

    A new study has discovered that tens of thousands of miles of permafrost in northwest Canada are rapidly melting, adding weight to recent research that shows an accelerating decline in permafrost in Alaska, Siberia, and Scandinavia.

    The disintegration of permafrost throughout the Arctic Circle portends a massive release of carbon, both into the surrounding environment in the form of sediment and into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. An unprecedented Arctic heat wave is accelerating its decay.

    And while global warming speeds up, President Donald Trump and his climate change-denying administration continues to push for fossil fuels and massive deregulation. In his speech last night, Trump failed to mention climate change even once.

    The study in northwest Canada mapped approximately half a million square miles of tundra and found that 52,000 square miles—an area the size of Alabama—is affected by the decay of permafrost, InsideClimate News’s Bob Berwyn reported Tuesday. The collapse of permafrost is “intensifying,” the researchers observed in the study published in Geology in early February, and it’s sending enormous landslides into lakes and rivers that are capable of choking off life downstream.

    We need your help…
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    “Similar signs are evident in coastal Arctic areas, where thawing permafrost and bigger waves are taking 60- to 70-foot bites of land each year,” Berwyn wrote.

    “Scientists estimate that the world’s permafrost holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere,” Berwyn noted. Indeed, the swift decline of permafrost is poised to rapidly accelerate global warming, as Common Dreams has reported.

    Berwyn reported: “Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, the researchers wrote[…] The study didn’t address the issue of greenhouse gas releases from thawing permafrost. But its findings could help quantify the immense global scale of the thawing, which will contribute to more accurate estimates of carbon emissions.”

    Accelerating the climate crisis isn’t the only frightening effect of disappearing permafrost: last year, researchers also discovered that melting permafrost could release deadly pathogens frozen in the ice, potentially re-introducing ancient viruses to human populations without the immunity to fight them.

  3. penury on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 10:03 am 

    Too much BS not enough reality.

  4. Antius on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 10:09 am 

    In a purely mechanical (i.e. not electronically controlled) engine, switching to natural gas or coal-derived producer gas is a simple matter of changing the mixture ratio. Electronic valve control makes it much more difficult.

    Yet another example of how complexity breeds inflexibility.

  5. BobInget on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 10:13 am 

    Can’t imagine ‘A World W/O Oil’ ?
    Unless, there are alternatives.

    Automobiles, today’s prime oil consumers could be refueled with natural gas, wind energy, solar, hydro,
    solar generated electricity.

    Almost every auto maker has electric cars in showrooms today. It’s true pure electrics represent only two percent of cars on the roads. Hybrids another 2.3 percent with Toyota controlling 70%.
    As oil prices move higher market share will increase.

    The next big challenge will be electric/diesel tractors and combines.

    (John Deere has an electric tractor model available
    with a range of 4 hours)

    Mercedes, next year will market hybrid, self-driving semi tractor/trailers.

    GE and Siemens are selling natural gas powered locomotives and heavy equipment, stationary NG powered generators.

    Honda is selling nitrogen powered autos.

    GM’s Bolt is outselling expectations.

    I’m celebrating my first year with an e-Golf powered entirely by solar. Love it.

  6. BobInget on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 10:19 am 

    Bashing EV’s is akin to giving a book a bad review without first reading it.

    President Trump said the other day; “Who knew health care was so complicated’?

  7. Sissyfuss on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 10:27 am 

    As far as the permafrost bomb is concerned, Bob, Gaia abhors imbalance and is getting a little more perturbed each day and with the concomitant 300k added to the mess. Mass extinctions are her way of saying “f#%k off.”

  8. ________________________________________ on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 11:09 am 

    Low IQ fags need to be burned for energy. Global warming is good news for most of the planet you fucktards. Why are there no mega fauna? Because it’s too cold and CO2 and O2 is too low.

  9. yellowcanoe on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 11:23 am 

    Lets see, I have 180 bottles of wine in our crawl space. I have lots of unread books. Now all I have to do is pickup a good supply of Swiss chocolate and I’m all set to weather the short adjustment period when we run out of oil! I never imagined it would be this easy!

  10. Apneaman on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 12:29 pm 

    Low IQ fags, would that be those who in spite of an infinite number of letter and word combinations can’t come up with a handle – draw a blank, shooting blanks.

    That’s your new name “Shooting Blanks.”

    Getting scared that AGW is going to wipe you and yours off the map Shooting Blanks? You should be.

    Why are there no mega fauna?

    Humans responsible for demise of gigantic ancient mammals
    Early humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of a variety of species of giant beasts, new research has revealed.

    “Known collectively as megafauna, most of the largest mammals ever to roam the earth were wiped out over the last 80,000 years, and were all extinct by 10,000 years ago.”

    Same reason there ain’t going to be any humans within a lifetime.

    Shooting Blanks sure is one stupid fuck.

  11. Apneaman on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 12:38 pm 

    Shooting Blanks, you is one backward mofo.

    Great Dying 252 million years ago coincided with CO2 build-up

    CO2 levels and mass extinction events

    For 2016, Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations are Rising at the Fastest Rate Ever Seen

    Daily CO2

    March 2, 2017: 406.12 ppm

    March 2, 2016: 406.46 ppm

    January CO2

    January 2017: 406.07 ppm

    January 2016: 402.64 ppm

    Earth has been through it before – cause and effect. Physics doesn’t care if the CO2 comes from many thousands of years of volcanic traps or a stupid naked ape digging it up and burning it. The end result is the same – Mass Extinction.

  12. Apneaman on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 12:55 pm 

    Global warming’s evil twin – ocean acidification

    Acidic oceans linked to greatest extinction ever
    Rocks from 252 million years ago suggest that carbon dioxide from volcanoes made sea water lethal.

    Acidification of Arctic Ocean may threaten marine life, fishing industry

    It don’t matter if it’s from volcanisim or monkey people and their carbon burning machines. It’s the same story and it will have the same ending.

  13. Outcast_Searcher on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 1:02 pm 

    What is the point of this speculation.

    Why not speculate on what would happen if the world were made of purple unicorns with magical power.

    Will we learn that tomorrow? I don’t think so.

    There is LOTS of oil for the moderate term.
    That’s not the problem. AGW and continuing to ignore it (which we will do until far too late) is the problem.

  14. Outcast_Searcher on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 1:13 pm 

    Bobinget said:
    “GM’s Bolt is outselling expectations.”

    Really? Whose? At a miserable roughly thousand cars a month?

    The Prius Prime and Chevy Volt are outselling it.

    When they’re selling over 10,000 Bolts a month, be sure and get back to us.

    Source: Inside EV’s monthly scorecard.

    So far, GM is a big disappointment on this. Hopefully IF they actually get their act together and sell it in all 50 states in the fall as they have promised (unlike their FALSE initial promise to do that starting late in 2016), we’ll see.

    I don’t think the BEV can work for the masses without much more expensive gasoline — unless their prices and infrastructure support (lots of FAST public charging) gets much better.

    Politicians are too cowardly to make gasoline more expensive. Heck, they could find the money to fund $1 trillion for road/bridge infrastructure overnight with a fairly small gasoline/diesel tax, which would have the USERS of the roads paying for the roads. They can’t even do THAT small thing.

  15. JN2 on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 3:45 pm 

    >> they could find the money to fund $1 trillion for road/bridge infrastructure overnight with a fairly small gasoline/diesel tax <<

    Really? 186B gallons per year at $1 extra tax per gallon = $0.186T. That's not a small tax…

  16. Sissyfuss on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 4:42 pm 

    Hmmmmmm_________________,a blank space as your moniker says it all.

  17. Sissyfuss on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 4:47 pm 

    App, isn’t your March 2 reading of 406.12 a typo. Keeling can’t be going down though _____________ is probably doing so at this minute.

  18. makati1 on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 6:35 pm 

    CO2 – You might want to check this out. About 428 ppm over Missouri today. Just klik the mouse over the spot you want to check.,8.26,436/loc=-93.999,37.026

    Its 410 ppm over Manila. 419 over London. 422 over Beijing. All subject to change, of course.

  19. rj on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 6:59 pm 

    Thank God for AGW deniers, otherwise no one would buy my house at 5′ above msl.

  20. Apneaman on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 7:12 pm 

    The real doomsday scenario is well under way. Positive self reinforcing feedbacks.

    Friday, March 3, 2017 Climate Change Open Discussion: Permafrost Decay, Ocean Acidification, Renewable Energy Advances, Trump Turning EPA into Fossil Fuel Vending Machine

    -52,000 Square Miles of Permafrost Decaying in Canada

    “Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.”

    “Permafrost thaw can add amplifying feedback carbon emissions to the Earth System at a time when atmospheric carbon levels are already the highest we’ve seen in about 5-15 million years. Frozen permafrost is a carbon sink –taking in more atmospheric carbon than it produces. Active, thawed permafrost generates the opposite effect. Microbes coming alive in the soil produce methane and carbon dioxide that contribute to the growing pools of carbon in the atmosphere and the world ocean. And with so much permafrost thawing as the world warms, the issue is one that simply will not go away.”

    “To this point, permafrost thaw isn’t just a local issue — it’s a geophysical change the produces global impacts.”

    Scribbler or any scientist or science reporter can describe it anyway they want, but it ain’t going to stop. Melting permafrost is one of many feed backs. It’s run away climate change.

    We can’t stop it.

  21. Apneaman on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 7:14 pm 

    Ecologist: “That’s an eye-opening rate of change”- Global Warming Fueled Spring Moving Forward At Record Rate

    “Oldspeak: “When we started studying this, I never would have imagined we’d be talking about a 26-day per decade rate of advance,” says Eric Post, a polar ecologist at the University of California Davis department of wildlife, fish and conservation biology, who has been studying the Arctic for 27 years.

    “That’s almost an entire growing season. That’s an eye-opening rate of change.”

    “One day after near 70 degree day here in New York, temperatures are forecast to plummet to 29 degrees tonight. Global weirding continues to accelerate apace, as ecological cycles spin out of whack worldwide. After a February where daily record highs have been blowing away daily record lows by a far greater than 100-to-1 ratio, quite the eye opening rate of change indeed. Expect the rate to increase and accelerate as time passes. ” -OSJ”

  22. GregT on Fri, 3rd Mar 2017 7:55 pm 

    “Melting permafrost is one of many feed backs. It’s run away climate change. We can’t stop it.”

    Sad but true.

  23. Apneaman on Sat, 4th Mar 2017 11:40 am 

    Betting the Farm: Farmers confront climate change

    Climate change is here, and Australian agriculture is acutely feeling the effects. Three farmers explain how it’s impacting their lives and livelihoods.

    “Real-world observations of temperature spikes, pasture growth and grape harvests across southern Australia reveal that the landscape is heating up at rates experts did not expect to see until 2030.

    In some instances the rates of warming are tracking at 2050 scenarios.”

  24. makati1 on Sat, 4th Mar 2017 5:48 pm 

    Ap, “…the landscape is heating up at rates experts did not expect to see until 2030.”

    I appreciate your ref posts. I suspect that we will be way off on all of our ‘forecasts’ for the future. We haven’t even factored in the geological changes happening swiftly all over the world. For instance:

    What happens when you quickly (days/weeks/months) remove millions of tons of ice from a land mass? Or place millions of tons of water on a concentrated spot (dam) hours after a “once in 500 years” storm? Answer: The land mass rises or falls accordingly. It is floating on a river of liquid rock and moves just like any other floating object. Its contact surfaces may also be lubricated by that same water. Volcanoes. Earthquakes. I suspect that Mother Nature’s war is only beginning.

  25. Apneaman on Sat, 4th Mar 2017 6:30 pm 

    When Denial Becomes Toxic

    “Bad news: the US government says it wants to eliminate medical care for the non-rich, eliminate the Department of Education and cut back the EPA, privatize Social Security and Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act … one way or the other, the Feds realize the game is up and are looking to repudiate their obligations, beginning with those to their own citizens. By invoking a bizarre combination of public rage- plus politics-as-usual, the managers hope nobody notices …”

  26. Apneaman on Sat, 4th Mar 2017 6:32 pm 

    By Geoffrey Chia: What you should not say in public…

    “Although there are no solutions to our predicament, I wrote a list of things a wise society would do here. I concluded the essay by acknowledging that our inherited denial of reality would probably prevent us from doing any of them.

    Today Dr. Geoffrey Chia wrote a list of things a wise society would do and ended with a similar conclusion.”

  27. DerHundistlos on Sun, 5th Mar 2017 1:22 am 

    @ Ape

    I noted that Dr. Chis failed to mention, POPULATION CONTROL.

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