Since its discovery 150 years ago, petroleum oil has become lifeline of the world, the functional equivalent of blood in the human body. The mechanism driving the entire transportation system from automobiles, airplanes, railways, ships to space rockets is based on utilization of energy of petroleum oil. Petroleum products are also extensively used in a number of infrastructure industries that form the core of industrial processes and basis of existence of modern world. However, the petroleum resources of world are very limited and they cannot endlessly meet human demands.
Various estimates have put the total extractable oil stock to exist for another 50-75 years if world continues to consume them at present rate. After that the cost of extraction of remaining petroleum products would become much more than the benefits obtained them and world would require new resources of energy to exist. These concerns have already spawned intense research in alternative technologies to meet the future energy needs in the face of an impending petroleum crisis. United States of America is world’s leading consumer of petroleum products accounting for approximately 25 % of total consumption of petroleum oil world over.
In 2003, world’s consumption of petroleum oil stood at around 80 million barrels per day, out of which US’s share was close to 20 million barrel (Hirsch, Bezdek, Wending, 2005). To meet these huge petroleum demands US depends crucially on oil imports that is well above 50 % today and continuing to rise upward. This overwhelming dependence on imported oil poses various strategic and security challenges for US interests in the long run. The sharp oil price increases of 1973 and 1979-81 serve as testimony to the dangers of import dependence.
Further as the oil sources would continue to deplete, the prices of oil would steadily and inexorably rise until the level when world is faced with an acute fuel crisis. Based on these observations it’s vital that U. S explores alternative technologies and fuels to sustain its development and growth structure. Need of alternative fuels The continuous rise in U. S oil consumption has forced it to rely increasingly on imported oil to meet its expanding requirements. As of today with its 20 million barrel per day consumption U.
S is the largest consumer and importer of oil, surpassing the combined consumption of Japan, Germany, China, Russia and South Korea (Reardon, 2004).. The share of oil in total energy produced in USA is just 17. 2 percent while in consumption it rises to 40 percent that explains the need for huge oil import. Imports constitute 11 million barrels per day that is more than the aggregate oil import of Japan, Germany, and South Korea (Reardon, 2004). The bulk of the oil consumption takes place in the transportation sector, which accounts for the 69 percent of the total oil consumption in US (Basic Petroleum Statistics, 2007).
Consumption stands highest for motor gasoline. Average daily consumption of motor gasoline in U. S, according to Petroleum data (EIA, 2005) is 8933 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel oil is the second most consumed petroleum product with daily consumption at 2817 thousand barrels. These figures give a realistic view of inevitable oil import dependency U. S for present and future if it carries on the present rate of consumption. Indeed the chances to curb the massive oil imports are slim considering the fleet of 210 millions vehicle that depend solely upon motor gasoline for their functioning (Hirsch R.
L, Bezdek R, Wending R, February 2005, 4). As on 1st January 2006, the total proven oil reserves with U. S was just 21. 6 billion barrels, which implies that in future U. S would be forced to rely almost completely on oil imports for its entire transportation requirements. As the closer sources shall run dry, U. S’ dependency would shift to further sources from where oil must be transported over vulnerable supply lines, leading to rise in global oil price. The greater risk is certainly compromising with U. S national interests.
The oil supply lines would always be at risk against subversive elements requiring another set of huge investment in ensuring safe transportation of oil to U. S onshore facilities. It will also place U. S interests in the hands of oil cartels such as OPEC that may freely manipulate oil supplies according to their own interests. Part II: Alternative fuel technologies The impending oil crisis has finally stirred policy makers in US. A number of approaches are suggested that include a. imposing taxes on oil consumption b. using tradable gasoline permits and c. exploration of new sources of oil ( Deutch J, Schlesinger J.
R, Victor D. G. 2006 ). However, the pressing need of situation demands measures that would sustain the present structure while safeguarding the future against depleting sources and rising petroleum prices. As the world’s oil reserves are finite, even measures such stagnating oil consumption and using oil more efficiently are just helpful in delaying the inevitable without offering any permanent solution to the issue. Oil reserves are going down steadily and within a couple of decades prices will soar up inexorably disrupting the economy, industry and society in turn.
The only practical solution to this problem is technological innovations in energy field that can reduce dependence on petroleum oil by providing alternative and sustainable sources of energy. It shall serve two immensely useful purposes that are a. minimizing U. S dependence on foreign oil and b. preventing the environment from damages associated with use of petroleum oils and products. The certainty of oil exhaustion has inspired efforts from both government and corporate sector to research and develop the new fuel technologies as a providential measure for survival, growth and progress in forthcoming days of oil crisis.
Past decade has seen great thrust on technological researches in alternative fuels. Various new techniques and models have already been introduced in the market to test their viability and capacity to successfully replace petroleum as chief source of energy. Most of these innovations are specifically aimed at transportation sector owing to its liability as chief consumer of petroleum oil and as principle cause of soaring oil imports. Due to distinct requirements of different sectors in transportation, the technologies vary
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