• Question: What will happen when we run out of petrol? Will a green form of energy that supplies enough be invented before that?

    Asked by Claudiam to Ceri, Marikka, Matt, Rob on 19 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Ceri Dare

      Ceri Dare answered on 19 Nov 2014:

      I hope so, but if we use up all the petrol then it is likely that many many people will die from the effects of Global Warming – so we need to switch to renewable energy before that. There’s lots of information about renewable energy here: http://learning.cat.org.uk/en/resources

    • Photo: Marikka Beecroft

      Marikka Beecroft answered on 20 Nov 2014:

      If we run out of petrol we won’t be able to drive cars, produce electricity, make new plastics, candles and other products from crude oil (the substance that petrol is made from). There are many projects in universities and by energy companies at the moment that are looking into it. My old university was looking at making biofuels from grass and algae. Some are looking at making bacteria produce electricity so we don’t need to rely on nuclear or fossil fuels! There are many things happening at the moment in green energy.

    • Photo: Robert Hampson

      Robert Hampson answered on 20 Nov 2014:

      Oil is under the ground and is quite hard to access. We have to drill big holes and pump it up using narrow pipes. When the oil is found under the ocean this is even more difficult and expensive. Given the massive investment required in oil rigs and pumps there is only a certain speed at which we can pump oil from the ground. If we want to increase the speed we have to find more oil to build more rigs.

      We are approaching a point known as peak oil. This is the highest speed at which we will ever be able to take oil from the earth, this is the most oil per month we will ever have. However, because economies are growing they generally want more oil and energy, this cannot be provided. Given the oil resources currently on offer, peak oil will probably be reached inside the next 5-10 years. If economies want to continue growing they will have to find alternative sources of energy.

      It will be many years before the oil runs out, however, it will slowly become rarer and rarer as rigs become less productive and we fail to find more oil resources. Hopefully, many other technologies will be developed before then to generate electrical energy as we kind of need the oil for all our chemistry!