WTI Crude

Loading...

Brent Crude

Loading...

Natural Gas

Loading...

Gasoline

Loading...

Heating Oil

Loading...

Rotate device for more commodity prices

Alt Text

Petrobras Reports 2.74M Bpd Daily Output For March

Brazil’s state oil major Petrobras…

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

More Info

Doomsday Scenario: A World Without Oil

Oil barrels

Suppose the rapture happened. Not the kind followed by the Second Coming of Jesus as promised by Paul, but a rapture of oil.

Imagine that one night, just after the last parents finish tucking in their toddler after falling into a post-ice cream coma, that … poof! All of the world’s oil in untapped reserves vanished from the Earth into a Great Fossil Fuel Heaven.

What remains is just the oil that exists in government or private inventories – extremely limited in quantity.

Initially, this would lead to the speedy recovery of oil prices, which have suffered a decline over the past three years due to a massive supply gut. An output reduction deal by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a handful of non-members is no match for a disappearing act of biblical proportions.

In the United States, employers who require the physical presence of their employees to get work done will be the most disadvantaged. Vibrant cities like Houston - laden with six or eight lane highways carrying millions of gas-guzzling trucks – would see empty streets for the first time in their histories.

Oil and gas has had a stronghold on Texas economics since 1901, when the Powell Field was discovered in Corsicana. Cheap fuel coupled with consecutive Republican governments has stymied the growth of public transportation in the state, with liberal hotspot Austin being the main exception.

As a result, Houstonians and the residents of municipalities with similar economic makeups and zoning patterns have become dependent on cars to get groceries and go to work; in short, to live life.

Converting gasoline engines to natural gas engines would be the quickest solution to the transportation conundrum, though the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to make the change for hundreds of millions of vehicles. According to the Department of Energy, only 150,000 American vehicles are equipped with CNG engines.

Pakistan, which has fully embraced natural gas as a default car fuel, completed years of engine conversion drives and educational campaigns before making the big shift. There won’t be time for that in this doomsday scenario, in which 89 percent of Americans with oil-thirsty cars are left with metal carcasses. Related: Why Investors Should Beware Of The Bakken

Cosmopolitan businesses that offer work-life balance options that allow employees to complete their responsibilities online will best be able to navigate the new state of energy affairs in the short and medium terms.

Only one percent of the United States’ electricity is powered through oil, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2015 report on the matter.

Coal and natural gas, each taking a one-third share, dominate the American electricity generation market. Nuclear power and hydropower stand at distant third and fourth positions.

This means that in the short-term, the grid would likely still be active for a majority of Americans, despite the disappearance of oil for cars and other mass transit vehicles. But soon enough, the trains and trucks used to transport coal and natural gas to power plants will run out of petroleum as well, causing a supply issue for the grid’s suppliers.

Apart from transit and electricity, petroleum is used to make plastics, life-saving medications, toys, pens and more.

Growing food locally will likely become commonplace, as the fuel needed to bring fruits and vegetables to markets becomes better utilized to operate other necessary machines. Refrigeration could be a thing of the past as well, ushering in a new area of meats preserved by salting instead of freezing.

It is unlikely that anything in this article will happen as written, though peak oil may someday be a reality. So far, we have only discussed the impacts of an oil-less world to everyday Americans and comparable developed countries. But the biggest geopolitical upheavals will occur in countries across Africa, the Middle East and South America.

The oil price crisis that began with the crash of 2014 is just a taste of what can happen when huge portions of the international economy’s oil wealth dissipate. Revolution and sociopolitical collapse awaited several of the world’s petrostates before OPEC’s November output cut deal. Even now, markets are shaky, and 2.5 years of recession, inflation, salary withholding, and import restrictions are testing the patience of peoples around the world.

In the event that oil disappears altogether, nations such as Algeria, Venezuela and Nigeria, with no plans to diversify away from fossil fuel production as the core of the national economy, will be left rudderless.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have spent the past few decades investing their oil profits in massive sovereign wealth funds prepped for a “rainy day” in the desert. These states will be able to exploit the savings to keep it together as they spearhead internal economic revolutions without oil.

All of this does not even include the tribulations that will test the officials of China and India – two of the world’s fastest developing economies with the heaviest energy needs. Related: Geopolitical Time Bomb: Chaos In Somaliland Could Trigger Regional Conflict

The development of renewable energy resources has just now gained momentum. The United Nations-led talks in Marrakesh last November brought countries to commit to a timeline for the gradual conversion of fossil fuel-based societies to green energy havens.

Host country Morocco has led the world in these efforts, with the most notable accomplishment to date being the commissioning of the Noor solar power complex in the desert city of Ouarzazate. At maximum capacity, the facility will power one million homes – providing clean power to just a fraction of the 35 million Moroccans living in country.

Still, at least Morocco plans to power 52 percent of its electrical needs through renewables by 2030. With 93 years of untapped natural gas reserves remaining in the U.S., the country will be pushed to switch from one fossil fuel to another via infrastructure investments for liquefied natural gas, should oil disappear.

Internationally, proven natural gas reserves rise by billions of barrels every year. As the technologies needed to extract previously inaccessible fossil fuels develop, economic obstacles for production will drop accordingly.

Even without oil, the likelihood that the planet would face a long-term energy drought is extremely low. A short adjustment period would be required in the improbable scenario that all the Earth’s oil disappears, or if all nations miraculously decide to keep from extracting any more oil from the planet’s crust. It won’t be pretty, but it will be passable.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • Bill Simpson on March 03 2017 said:
    Comforting fantasy, but wrong. If oil disappeared, nearly everyone in the developed world would have starved to death within 2 months. Everything here is 'just in time' today. Big warehouses full of finished food and goods no longer exist. It would be impossible to feed the population for three weeks without diesel to move food. Growing food before we would starve would be impossible without using diesel and gasoline. All farm tractors and trucks which move food run on diesel. Animals to pull plows don't exist. It would take decades to breed enough of them to replace diesel tractors. Switching to natural gas would be quicker, but it could never be done in time to avoid mass starvation.
    No oil would be like no electrical grid. That happens, and within a month, you're dead. Oil and electricity do 98% of all the work done in industrialized countries today. We can't survive without both of them. Although nearly complete electrification might be possible, given enough time to make the switch. Such a switch would take at least a half century.
  • jack ma on March 03 2017 said:
    Great article.

    I think the nice lady writing this perhaps sees the massive oil shortage ahead not in that there is not enough oil but we will not be able to readily get it to market after the trillion dollar cap ex reduction that resulted from crashed prices that resulted from 400 million fake barrels flooding supply that resulted from the BRICS selling the dollar that resulted from the FEDS printing to many fake dollars that resulted in debasing the dollar that resulted in devaluing the wealth of foreign nations. Long sentence.


    A oil shortage is on the way and this writer knows this but to state her story in a fictional sense gets her off the hook from people thinking she is nuts but in fact she is anything but nuts. She is right. She is one smart lady and this article needs to be read between the lines - there is a massive oil shortage on the way.

    IMHO
  • Seth on March 03 2017 said:
    Imagine what would happen if Santa Claus stopped delivering toys to children around the world.
  • Russ Ramey on March 03 2017 said:
    Oil, copper, water, food, etc are all gone by the year 2000 according Paul Erlichman of the catastrophe guru's (the Club of Rome Report) of the 1970's. Energy is what we need, we will find a way if the market is allowed to work. Whale oil isn't the problem any longer. Look up Herman Kahn's Globaloney and never worry about these people again. State of Fear by late Michael Crichton, same way.
  • Geneo on March 03 2017 said:
    Good article. It is difficult for nearly everyone to grasp the idea , that peak oil is not running out of oil.. But rather still having plenty of oil but demand is so weak oil companies can't afford to pump it at a profit . Thus a shortage of oil because of oil price weakness. Gail Tverberg's article first brought this fact to my attention. Accordingly free monetary policy & helicopter money may put off the coming economic collapse a few years at most.
  • Sachiin Mahajan on March 08 2017 said:
    Nice article reading like future sci-fi story ! Indeed instead of 'world without oil' if it becomes 'world without hunger, terrorism, wars, weapons, politics' then things will be much different !
    Anyway enjoyed reading article written in lucid and simple language.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News