Research at the U: Few options remain after oil runs out

Courtesy Oceana
Courtesy Oceana

This summer, oil prices are expected to jump to record-breaking prices. The cost of filling a car’s gas tank has passed $4 a gallon, while people who rely on petroleum for air conditioning and electricity will likely find a substantial increase in their utility bills.

Global oil prices, which are largely based on speculation, have been the subject of debate in recent years as untapped petroleum reserves continue to be exploited.

“Oil supplies are pretty tight these days and small disruptions, like the situation in Libya, can have direct consequences on oil prices,” said David Kelly, an associate professor of economics.

Many experts in the field predict that the demand for oil will likely exceed the supply within the next decade, bringing many to question the viability of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear power and biofuels.

And as climate change research advances, many scientists are looking to these renewable energy sources to help curb worldwide carbon emissions in an attempt to slow down the depletion of the ozone layer, the earth’s protective shield from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

Kelly, who conducts research in environmental economics and policy, does not see an immediate market for alternative energy.

“Renewable energy sources are currently very expensive to harness because the infrastructure is so costly to build and maintain,” he said. “And as far as biofuels are concerned, it is very difficult to utilize them because they drive up the prices of agricultural commodities like corn and sugar, which are utilized for food.”

While renewable energy sources seem like good alternatives to petroleum, the reality is that oil is the only resource currently available that is capable of sustaining our way of life. The day will eventually come when oil is no longer the dominant source of energy on the planet, but until the supply runs out, it looks like most people will pay almost anything to obtain it.

Jonathan Lebowitz may be contacted at