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The End of the Age of Oil

Homo sapiens became something more than another mammal on the planet when they gained control of fire. Using fire to create energy for heat, food preparation, the making of tools and weapons, and later transportation is the story of civilization. Midway through the nineteenth century, we entered an age where the burning of nonrenewable fossil fuels–coal, natural gas, petroleum–became the primary source of energy. The availability of cheap fossil fuels enabled the industrial age and the growth of modern society. Automobiles, electric power plants, plastics, fertilizers, explosives, everything from energy production to synthetic materials to agriculture to transportation to war depends on fossil fuels–primarily crude oil. More than half of everything we consume is either grown with, made of, delivered by, or packaged in petroleum products. For quite some time now, cheap oil has sustained the way we live.

Land of the Free
"Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" by Mark Henson. All rights, US and International, reserved by the artist.

That is rapidly changing. After a hundred and fifty years of increasing petroleum use, we are halfway through Earth's reserves. The price of a barrel of petroleum was $12 a barrel in 1998. It topped $145 in June of 2008, fell back to $30 by January of 2009, climbed back up and stablizied in $50-70 range for most of the following decade, then at one point during the pandemic in 2020 it went negative, and now hovers around $60. World oil production is at or nearly at a peak and, as the pandemic has shown, we are witnessing the first tremors of economic adjustment. Energy cost volatility will cause continuing upheaval in the economy and put vast financial pressure on the middle and lower classes. Tracking carbon footprints and relocalization, concepts you may or may not be familiar with, will be key social trends in the years to come. Finding a clean alternative to oil yesterday or simply living with less energy is absolutely critical to the future and direction of humankind tomorrow.

Table of Contents


Petroleum, as a cheap source of energy, has been the key ingredient to the growth and development of our current industrial age. Petroleum, however, is a nonrenewable, finite natural resource. The word "finite" needs emphasis here. Current estimates suggest petroleum production will soon peak and be priced out of common use. As our economy and our production of food are critically dependent on cheap oil, we must either find a new way to produce clean efficent energy or moderate the way we live. MORE.

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Many of the essays, stories, and reviews at Mud City Press are formated as ADOBE PDF files. If you don't have ADOBE's Acrobat Reader on your computer, you may download their free software at the ADOBE website.

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