Steadily rising gasoline prices continue to vex members of the general car-driving public, stoking their anger toward oil suppliers for producing too little, oil retailers for charging too much and the government for, well, just because. Correlative to this situation is the abiding phobia that the planet’s supply of fossil fuel is, if you can believe it, becoming depleted. “What? How can that be??” Well, after almost a hundred years since the ascendancy of the automobile began in earnest, and with the general consumption of petroleum products being in a state of constant, geometric increase, how could it NOT be running out?
I, for one, bought into the original fuel shortage scare in the seventies and figure that the last forty years have been a bonus of sorts for those who care about such things as diminishing supplies. As for me, I don’t. Care, that is. Nor do I care, particularly, about the emissions problems inherent in fossil fuel use. It’s not that I’m blind or otherwise insensitive to the dangers these pollutants create and the harm they perpetrate on the environment on a daily basis, it’s just that I know human nature, and that knowledge tells me that permanent conservation is nothing but a pipe dream. As a culture we won’t ever stop driving our cars, speedboats, snowmobiles, ATVs and club-cab pickups until the offshore rigs suck that last ooze of crude from the ocean sub-floor and the last shard of shale is squeezed dry of its petroleum pomace. We’ll worry about conservation once it’s all gone, dammit, and not a moment before. So move on to something else.
Which leads me to my next, even more interesting point–one that’s sure to cause a more profound panic than even five-dollar a gallon gas: If all that oil has been pumped out from beneath the earth’s surface for as long as it has, what’s going to take its volumetric place? Think about it for a minute. Just consider, roughly, the number of cars and trucks there are in the world, and multiply that number by each vehicle’s average fuel tank capacity, times the number of fill-ups each requires per year, times the number of years cars, generally, have been in common use throughout history, and you come up with, well, lots of gallons of gas. Hundreds. Even more if you use the metric system. If we go on to figure that each couple of gallons of liquid crude that must be sucked out of the ground to produce a measure of gasoline would displace maybe a cubic foot or so of volume (again, less in Europe), we’re talking about some major vacant space just beneath the Earth’s crust. Ignoring, for the moment, the potential for loft condominiums, that kind of unstabilized vacuum represents a serious risk of catastrophe to all us surface-dwellers, not to mention attorneys. It means that at any inopportune time the delicate atmospheric/geophysical balance of external and internal planetary pressurization could rupture, or go “kittywhompers”, as geologists say, erumpently sending our entire world out of orbit and thus flinging all currently extant flora and fauna into deep space. What is needed, and I mean right now, is some kind of stuffing to take up this space and fill the cavities left by that mineral extraction.
Could be the perfect place for all those SUVs.