We may be in store for some serious calamities. If we suddenly run out of fuel, we might have trouble getting food, staying warm and transporting the many supplies that keep our society running smoothly.
Electric motors have been improved greatly in recent years. They no longer need full power to operate. Batteries are improving rapidly and batteries are the biggest problem in electric cars. Up til Katrina there wasn't any need to replace gasoline, but as gas prices go up, electricity and batteries look better and better. Maybe you've heard of the Nanosafe battery which uses carbon nanotubes to store electricy. It charges in fifteen minutes or less. The cars it powers are fast and heavy and they have a range of about 200 miles. The problem is that the nanosafe battery is very expensive. They expect that to change quickly, as in five years or so. Why wouldn't you want to drive a car with a 200 mile range, no emissions or noise, great acceleration, and that charges in fifteen minutes? I don't society will fall apart if we have vehicles like that.
So where will this electricy come from? Wave generators are one possible source. Water is a lot heavier than air so it's movement represents tremendous amounts of energy and we all know there are lots of waves on the planet. Then there's geothermal. Drill a hole 5000 feet into the earth, pour water down and it turns into steam instantly because of the heat down there. The steam expands, and with tremendous force rises to the surface where it can be harnessed to power turbines. This can be done near any city in the world. Huge, unlimited amounts of energy. Nothing like windmills. Earth: The Sequel by Fred Krupp.
Bacteria and ants can quickly turn the toughest, nastiest stuff on earth into energy at room temperatures. Fiberous things like wood and so on. Of course they use it to power their own bodies. They don't give the energy away, but scientists are trying to figure out how they do it. That'll probably take some time.
A more pertinent solution is the fats produced by Algae when used in biodiesel. Algae can be harvested daily (like milking a cow). They grow so fast. The produce a tremendous amount of usable oil in comparison to the fuel produced by corn or soybean crops. And they use carbon dioxide to grow so a coal plants emissions could be pumped into an algae farm and the algae will clean the emissions while creating biodiesel.
Even now cars could be equipped with the batteries we have today. They'd take up a lot of space and we couldn't go very far without switching them out, but we could run electric cars today. We'd have to stop at stations where, probably some robotic arm would take the spent batteries out and replace them with charged and then we could go another 40 miles to the next station. Somebody would have to build all those robotic stations and equip them with countless, huge batteries (full of lead). People would have to buy cars with much shorter range, but emissions would be zero (not counting what the powerplant's emissions are). It would have to be the law of the land. The government would have to impose this sort of transportation on us and that would probably be unpopular with many. For most of these things, the governments are going to have to step in. Gas needs to be even more expensive so that people are more accepting of this sort of idea, but I think it could work. It wouldn't be without it's downside.
Government, like US government is kind of ineffective at handling problems. Take the dust bowl situation in the thirties. The government ignored the problem. They had caused it by giving away the land and encouraging people to farm the area even though bankers knew the land was not suitable for crops. The sod busters moved in, cleared away the special grasses that had evolved over a hundred thousand years into something that could survive with almost no water. The sod busters tore up the sod which held down the topsoil that took eons to form and... crops were great for a couple of years and then it all blew away. People and animals died of dust pneumonia. Sometimes you couldn't see your hand in front of your face because the dust was so thick but nobody in charge cared until the dust was carried to the east coast during some freak storms. Roosevelt then launched ambitious plans to save the prarie, but only small areas succeeded. A vast, delicate but fertile area (where the buffalo used to roam) was turned into totally inhospitable desert, probably the biggest environmental calamity in the United States. WW2 took attention away from the problem just as today world events distract us from global warming and our other problems. Nasty, expensive problems are put off. People hope they aren't real or that someone else will solve them. So there is a strong likelyhood that we will run out of fuel even with all this promising looking stuff. It would be a huge, almost unthinkable disaster. Starvation, maybe invasion by foreign powers taking advantage of our weakness. Doomsday stuff. Unpleasant things that gnaw at me a little while I while away my time with the latest computer game.
Even if we do find very suitable substitute for our energy needs we have many other problems. New technologies offer a lot of hope, but also many dangers. Nano science, self replicating nano machines, modified bacteria. What if some hostile, somewhat crazy world leader gets hold of some technology that lets loose self replicating nano machines that eat topsoil or maple trees or something like that? How can you guard against that kind of invasion? Then there are the mistakes in making life better. Things aren't tested out. Cars for instance. When they were invented, people immediatly saw they were useful, fun and so forth, but not much thought was given to the dirt they produced or how they'd make us more sedentary. Same with TV, all our machinery, the internet. None of it is extensively tested out to see how it affects society and life on earth. If it was tested, it probably wouldn't be legalized. "You've got some new toy that turns my kids into zombies that want to stay up all night playing while ignoring his parents and schoolwork? Get out!"
We're running out of antibiotics. The germs are evolving and we might not have anything to kill them. That could be a bad thing.
Several books I've read recently suggest that the drugs that are routinely given to kids for their ADHD cause them to become indifferent and permanently stunted, unable to deal with life's challenges. This is probably the ancient worry of every aging generation. "Them younguns aint right like we was!"
Plastics release pthalates when warmed. (spelling) They mimic female hormones. Girls are reaching puberty sooner. Malformation of male genitals is supposed to be more common.
Al Gore says that there has been an assault on reason (in his book "assault on reason". That tv has turned every important discussion into a thirty second commercial that just doesn't get into the complexity of things. He says that many still believe the 9-11 hijackers were working for Saddam and that they were Iraqi when actually they were mostly Saudi and Egyptian and Saddam had nothing to do with it.
India is building a lot of highways and four wheel cars. China doing the same. Both countries have huge populations in comparison to the USA which was the greatest polluter not long ago. These newcomers will soon put us to shame with how much filth they can produce and just when the we are becoming convinced of the threat of global warming. Global warming is getting ready to step up it's assault on the human race. Ice reflects heat. Water absorbs it. When the ice is gone up north, the earth's rate of heating up will increase.
I could go on for pages. Yea. Things can go very wrong. I think if we enter a new dark age, there will be staggering loses in human life. All for the best though