Oil as a source of conflicts
It seems that it will be really difficult to avoid this worst - case scenario because the most powerful countries has proved that they are prepared to commit whatever to gain the control over the oil reserves (Middle East conflicts – in 2003 George Bush claimed that the reason for attacking and liberation of the independent country Iraq were the weapons of mass destruction, of course, nothing has proved because the obvious and real reason was only one - Iraq has the fourth biggest reserves of oil on the globe). I am quite certain that if the money wasted on military expenses were used to develop new technologies, the issue of oil would be extremely unimportant.
Proved oil reserves by country - 2008 (billion barrels):
1. Saudi Arabia - 264.3
2. Canada - 178.8 (oil sands – it is likely to reflect in higher prices for barrel of oil)
3. Iran - 132.5
4. Iraq - 115.0
5. Kuwait - 101.5
World total - 1,292.6
For one thing, there is no doubt that on the world already exist solutions of complete oil replacement in industries like energetics or transportation - higher use of railways and electric powered cars (the first so - called green cars are sold this year) could fully decrease transportation´s oil demand. On the other hand, this would require very high investments in infrastructure (railways electrification, construction of high speed rail instead of planes, recharging stations for vehicles), furthermore with the existing technology it would be unsustainable solution because to replace all fuel and diesel powered cars we would have to build at least about 10 000 nuclear power plants (radioactive waste would surely have detrimental impact on the environment) therefore the world has to develop the source of cheap and clean energy.
For another thing, petroleum is also the raw material for many chemical products, including pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, plastics and it is nearly impossible to find suitable alternative for these products, but some people believe that when oil production decreases, modern society will be forced to change drastically.
3. Environmental impacts of oil use
The environmental impact of using oil is not only CO2 emissions produced by vehicles.
It includes searching, drilling, pumping, refining and transporting the oil before the end consumer gets it. In addition, it involves the land use, waste management and groundwater and air pollution from the production and refining process. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and other harmful gases and waste materials are produced, which affects high pollution levels in many parts of the world and what is more, global warming. The oil is usually transported long distances by tanker and pipeline, adding to its impact on the environment (oil spills, deforestation). Accidents such as oil spill cause additional damage to the ecology.
In the end, the final product is eventually burnt, adding more carbon dioxide to our greenhouse gas.