All good things must come to an end. The United States is currently enjoying near historic low gas prices, and the trend is expected to continue. AAA expects gas prices to stay low in 2016 and potentially drop even lower. While you won’t hear many complaints about low gas prices, it does have wide-ranging consequences. According to Forbes, despite prior predictions, demand for gasoline is actually growing. As petroleum is a limited resource, increased demand can have negative long-term effects.
Conventional wisdom would posit that advancements in technology, coupled with increased awareness regarding fuel-efficiency, would lead to a more fuel efficient fleet, however the opposite is true. Cheap gas prices have led to a spike in SUV and truck sales, further increasing the demand for gasoline. SUVs and trucks offer poor fuel efficiency and increase the need for more gasoline.
It is nearly unfathomable today, but petroleum will not be around forever. While there is not a consensus, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers believes there are 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world. It is estimated that based on the amount of petroleum left in the world, we will run out of gasoline in 40 to 53.3 years. To put that span into perspective, the first documented use of petroleum dates back to approximately 4,000 years ago.
It is not entirely clear what a post-petroleum world will look like, but if current trends continue, we will have less time to plan for it. Petroleum is an incredibly valuable, yet finite resource. As the global population continues to swell, industrialization will expand and petroleum will fuel the process. It is important to remain cognizant of the limited availability of petroleum in the future and make a concerted effort to use less gasoline when possible. Choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle for personal transportation can make a difference for both today and the future.
Petroleum has been instrumental in the creation of the modern world, a fact which becomes evident when you consider the difficulty in planning a world without it. While alternative fuels present a viable replacement for oil, we simply are not in a position today to make the paradigm shift. In the interim, it becomes essential to focus on reducing petroleum use. 40 years can go by in a blink of an eye, and unless we begin preparations now for the future, the future becomes far less predictable.