It used to be that gas was seen as an eternal source of power. Then, people realised how the Saudi oil resources were not infinite, and would soon run out. This in part led to the environmental movement, looking for green, renewable alternatives. But since then, other sources have emerged. From the Canadian tar sands to the oil shale in North Dakota, more gas and petrol becomes available.
So what does it mean for renewable energy? Deborah Gordon is a scientist at the Carnegie Endowment Energy Program and says that abundance may end up being the real paradigm shift. Gordon wrote an entire book on the subject titled Transport Beyond Oil, where she talks about some of the future ways of transportation when oil will no longer be the driving force, but that may take some time now.
While the typical sand oil is getting scarce, there are actually 160 different types of oils available on the various world markets, all with their own characteristics, and the big question is whether the transportation industry, where most of the oil goes, will move on to one of these alternative oils or not. Some are lower in carbon emission footprints, but some are thick as window putty, while others are dangerous to gather, like fracking, which can also be devastating for the environment.
While talking about changing the electric grid or heating to green energies is one thing, any real effort will have to tackle transportation, and that is where these renewable sources become a problem, and where other sources of oil can look attractive. Gordon says that she is not sure the prices will stay up forever, and that as more ways of getting crude oils are found, they may actually go back down, leading to another decade of oil dependence.