The Problem With Fossil FuelsThe debate about the use of fossil fuels has reached a heightened pitch, with environmental campaigners, scientists, politicians, representatives of the fossil-fuel companies, such as Bp, Shell, and Esso, all pitching in with their arguments. The general public often gets lost in the midst of all this frenzied, passionate debate, and it is often hard to unpick the issues and make informed personal choices.

We know there is a problem; all of us who drive know that the price at the petrol pumps keeps rising, fuelling our houses and paying the bills gets harder and harder, we hear so much about the real environmental cost of flying, and recently the Stern Report on Climate Change and Global Warming told the world we must change our lifestyles or face catastrophe. What is clear, as experts from all sides of the debate agree, is that the world’s total amount of resources is fast running out, and we need to find solutions multi-nationally to this problem.

A new documentary film, ‘A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash’ (Lava Productions, 2006) shows these problems in graphic imagery – oilfields on fire, empty mining shafts and abandoned towns, and the political and physical battles between nations in their struggles to win and keep control of oil, all supported by a range of candid interviews with the world’s leading experts in fossil fuels, including Presidential advisors and oil barons.

Depletion of Fossil Fuels

Crude oil, which is in its most basic form, mineral deposits formed deep in the earth or under the sea bed, has been discovered and exploited all around the world for just over 150 years. It is transformed into oil, which is then refined into petrol or petroleum products (plastic is a petroleum derivative, for example), and is produced at the rate of several million barrels a day. This is often described as the energy of the world. Without a doubt, despite obfuscation by several countries, oil production the world over is now peaking, as each oilfield has been mined and depleted – simply, we are running out of oil supplies. Technologies are highly advanced in scanning for potential new seams of oil, but there are fewer and fewer places to look.

The Damage Fossil Fuels can do

However they are obtained, whether through traditional or new methods such as fracking, burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas results in the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which cause global warming. This is a stark truth, but the scientific facts point to significant warming, indicated by sea levels rising, hotter temperatures and freakish storm weather patterns, like tsunami’s and hurricanes, becoming more and more regular.

The Human Impact

Many campaigners might argue that we should worry least about the impact that the depletion of resources will have on humans, but maybe we should look at this impact first. Oil has been the cause of many wars – the debate continues about the US/UK military presence in Iraq, and as it becomes scarcer, so may oil-hungry nations become ever more desperate and willing to fight for it. In the last fifty years, we in the richer hemisphere have become so dependent on oil for our luxurious lifestyles, based on possessions and travel that our political systems and livelihoods often completely depend on the fuels we need to run them. However, this crisis we are in, could also become the technological turning point, away from reliance on precious natural resources, and utilising renewable resources. Sun, wind, and renewable crops (to make bio-fuel, in this instance) are the major resources that are already being used, but more needs to be done in the fields of research and development to make a transition across to the energy gained from these. At the same time, the realisation needs to spread throughout the world how our lifestyles must change – how our blind dependency upon fossil fuel must halt.

Find out for yourself what you can do to change your lifestyles, starting with your houses – making some of the changes highlighted on our site, using less fuel, flying less, considering changing over to solar and/or wind power, and above all, to keep engaged with the issue.