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     Volume 4 Issue 33 | February 11, 2005 |

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A World without Oil

Saidul Islam

Imagine a world without oil…no cars running on the street, no airplane on the sky, irrigation curbed, industries closed up… virtually all activities would come to an immediate halt. The streets will be full of rickshaws while bullock-carts would again find their way on the highways!

This is not the case yet, as still the world oil stock is sufficient to meet the demand. How long the supply will last is still a topic of debate though. According to US department of energy, it should last till 2037. Nevertheless, if the population keeps increasing as it has been in the past, and if rapid industrialization particularly based on oil keeps up in the developing countries, the remaining stock can deplete much sooner --might even be within the year 2016! The recent trends of higher oil price therefore, do signify the imminent unstable future.

The world today burn around 80m barrels a day and by 2025, the world is projected to need 120 million barrels per day. With higher and higher amount of demand, the world oil reserve shall definitely peril in the middle of this century considering the proved reserve of oil.

It's not just transportation and agriculture that are entirely dependent on oil, but modern medicine, oil refineries, research and etc. are each entirely powered by oil and petroleum derived chemicals. Popular goods that are made with plastic, is actually derived from oil. Many of the production and manufacturing processes consume ravenous quantity of oil. One good example could be the average car that usually consumes about 4,000 gallons of oil during its construction.

Electrical devices including solar panels, windmills etc. and exploration of uranium - all of them are discovered, extracted, transported, and fashioned using oil-powered machinery. Nuclear power plants also consume a tremendous amount of oil during their initial construction and continued maintenance.

Very importantly, the overall business volume of oil and related petroleum product is simply incredible--billions of people all over the world are associated directly and indirectly on this business, the banks, investors, scientists or technicians, whatever it is, it counts for simply too many people in this particular business.

It is time to think alternative as an increase in the demand is almost inevitable.

Alternative fuel varies in type and composition, but initially the most important issue related to alternative fuel is the performance, availability and costing as well and none of these fuels can even come closer to oil. Hydrogen fuel cells are in the thinking of the experts but it is highly expensive and yet not viable as its raw material, platinum, is limited in the world.

Wind and solar power are also not the answer. Solar power cannot be used in the night or cloudy days and wind power hugely depends on the weather condition and geographic location. These two are acceptable for nominal household applications, but never for any industrial or commercial purposes.

Many might think that the solution lies on nuclear energy, but it is not. Nuclear energy requires uranium to produce the energy and uranium as well has limitation like oil. At the current usage rate, there is only 25~40 years of supply remaining for uranium. Moreover, the manufacture, maintenance and even the disposal of nuclear reactor is highly dangerous and capital intensive.

Natural gas can be an option, at least for Bangladesh, as it has a big stock of it. But natural gas is not suited for substituting oil especially in cases like big vehicles, aircraft, ships, and heavy agricultural equipments.

We can use our natural gas effectively by making the required diversification, i.e. - in the form of liquefied natural gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Already the first two has started to occupy our market in a short scale but LNG is yet to come. It was observed that India is expecting to import 5 million tons of LNG from Iran to meet its looming energy requirement. What Bangladesh needs at this moment is strategic foreign investment in this sector.

It is understandable that despite the massive increase in the energy efficiency over the last decade, we are more dependent on oil than ever. This trend is unlikely to be abated and therefore it has become imperative to devote more and more on the alternate energy options even with their individual shortcomings. Still there is hope that the world will cope up with the imminent energy crisis only if some steps like mass international collaboration, unique political cooperation, exchange of technology and finally investment on researches can be instigated rapidly.


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