Okay, so an apocalyptic view of deteriorating cities might be a little drastic… but there are many things that we use in our daily lives without giving them a second thought.
Oil is something that has become a significant part of our lives, and has been so for centuries. But have you ever paid heed to the fact that oil is a non-renewable energy source, and what would happen if this source ran out?
What would our lives be like today if oil did not exist in the first place? Let’s take a look at just several of countless ways our lives would be virtually unrecognizable.
Travel Without Oil
Whether it is your car, the bus, or school van, virtually all of our vehicles today run on gasoline. Without oil, our methods of getting from one place to another would be very different from what we enjoy today.
Electric cars are just now beginning to become a reality, but even today the technology has not matured to the point of offering a viable, practical alternative to gasoline vehicles.
However, the biggest impact would be on air travel, which is entirely dependent on jet fuel. Without petroleum there would be no such thing as boarding an airplane to travel across the country, or internationally. We would largely be confined to the areas immediately surrounding our residence, much as it was hundreds of years ago.
Sail and human-powered boats and ships have existed for thousands of years, of course, but even a modest voyage can take months, and what is today a relatively safe experience would again become excessively dangerous.
Plastics and Manufacturing
Fuel is far from the only practical implementation of crude oil. Whether it is the toothbrush you use every day, the contact lenses you wear, your running shoes, or your favorite clothing, nearly everything is derived from or manufactured using oil products in one way or another.
Plastic is the durable and long-lasting substance that is derived directly from petroleum and life without this single element would be drastically different than it is today.
Moreover, the medical field would look far different than it currently does, as a significantly large number of medical and operational products are derived from plastic. Plastic is used in latex gloves, syringes, sterilized packaging and also comprises the surgical components used in hip, joint and heart operations.
You may see plastic in abundance today. It may even be a biological hazard when improperly disposed of, but soon its prices will rise and the need to recycle it will increase by folds. The cosmetic industry will be rocked, since almost every cosmetic item (in composition as well as packaging) requires oil and oil-derived products.
Impact on the Food Supply
The mass production of food, preservation of food products and packaging is possible because of oil and its numerous byproducts.
Whether it is the heavy machinery that farmers use today to sow, harvest and clean the crops, or the pesticides and fertilizers they use to make these crops healthier and high-yielding, everything is thanks to oil.
The packaging and preservation industry depends abundantly of oil derived products. What food is grown in a world without oil will be more prone to decomposition. There would be no means of preservation or of widespread distribution, which means that every person would be put into a position of fending for themselves and producing their own food.
Without chemical oil-based pesticides and fertilizers, farmers would have to resort to organic farming practices, which would not only make the price of the foods rise tremendously, but also push us to adapt to the different types of meals, depending on the seasons.
The higher food prices have already pushed many to rethink the amount of food being wasted, and in a world without oil, we would have to save every portion of a meal in order to be economical.
From transportation and medical necessities to food production and much more, oil has become an inexorable part of our daily lives. One thing is for certain – life would be much more challenging if our oil were to suddenly run out.
We have, of course, only scratched the surface of this hypothetical situation. We’re not the only ones who put forth answers to this question, however. For a more in-depth and visualized look at what our world would be like without oil, we recommend the following National Geographic presentation.