Dismantle the oil age


For more than a hundred years, industrial and modern development has been dependent on fossil fuels. The oil age was given extra momentum after the oil crisis in 1972, and has given a country like Norway an economy people could not dream of 50 years ago. Unfortunately there are also many hidden costs and dangerous side effects. Continued use could threaten the existence of mankind.


Vanishing ecosystems.  Time is running out.  (Photo: P. Prokosch, GRID-Arendal)

Oil has become a social drug, and we are addicted. Re-hab is long overdue, but combating addiction is difficult. We must realize that prolonged use of oil is dangerous. The next step is to streamline and reduce energy use, and quickly develop new forms of energy without the oil’s disadvantages. The future needs raw material resources like oil for things we cannot imagine today. It is irresponsible to just burn it.

For the last few decades it has been clear that the transition to a sustainable society should have been implemented on a large scale decades ago. Had we begun reducing the use of oil in the 1990s, the transition would have been smoother. Now the signs of coming disasters are increasingly visible. We have the technology, we have the resources. What we no longer have is time. The oil age must be dismantled over the next 20 years!

There are four main problem areas:

Environmental Pollution

Coal and oil contain chemicals and particles detrimental to health and environment. We emit carbon (soot), nitrogen oxides, benzene and sulphur in large quantities. Oil spills and air emissions have serious and long-term toxic effects. Fossil energy has many hidden costs. When costs of environmental damage and climate changes are included in the overall accounts, fossil fuels are no longer profitable. The IMF has calculated the annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to roughly USD 2 trilion.

Non-renewable, finite resources and vulnerable communities

Fossil energy is a limited resource. We use the most readily available sources first, and become addicted. To meet global demands; less accessible, marginal sources are needed. The cost of extracting one barrel of oil from the old, big sources in the North Sea, Saudi Arabia, Texas and Baku is between 5 and 8 dollars, approximately. The price of the same barrel from a marginal source such as the Barents Sea might be ten times that price or more. Profit margins on unconventional, marginal sources drop rapidly. When the old sources go dry, the oil revenues to countries like Norway will decrease while costs rise. The oil industry is therefore a “sunset industry”.  International oil trading requires the marginal, unconventional oil sources such as tar sands oil and expensive sources in difficult areas to keep the wheels turning.

Furthermore, the oil trade is a global system that relies on large subsidies. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), the global oil industry receives between 500 billion and 2000 billion dollars annually, depending on what factors are included. With tax cuts, state guarantees and other subsidies the oil industry gets, the development of renewable energy sources have difficulties competing. Profits to the people who control the old and cheap oil wells are already staggering, and they are willing to do almost anything to keep it going for another few years. It is irresponsible to let over-optimistic special considerations for the oil industry decide the future of our grandchildren. Subsidies must be transferred to “sunrise industries”: renewable energy sources, where environmental damage is small, and efficiency increases while costs decrease.

Vulnerable logistics, volatile prices and uneven geographical distribution

The largest reserves of cheap oil are concentrated in the Middle East, some old “Soviet countries” and Africa. These reserves are controlled by “Big Oil” – directors in close connection with corrupt and fanatical regimes or individuals with their own agendas. More than half of the global oil proceeds go to such regimes. The Carbon Society is dependent on a regular supply, and vulnerable to uncontrolled price fluctuations. Our societies are governed by groups like “Big Oil”, “Carbon Barons” and “Petro-Tyrants”. Huge accumulations of capital by corrupt individuals and undemocratic regimes create violent conflicts that threaten democratic governance and continuously cause new financial crises.

decadal warming

Global warming the last three decades has been dramatic. Source:  World Meteorological Organisation, 2013  http://library.wmo.int/pmb_ged/wmo_1119_en.pdf

CO2 emissions and climate change

The world’s most esteemed climate scientists have proven global warming of air, land and sea. Rising temperatures, rising sea levels, reduction in glacier ice and snow, warmer seas and acidification are among the symptoms. Our climate systems are already changing, resulting in more unpredictable weather, extreme weather events such as storms, droughts, heavier snow in winter seasons, fifty-year-floods every five years, forest fires and various difficulties for agriculture. Society’s vulnerability increases rapidly without massive development of alternative energy sources.

Continued long-term use of fossil fuels is deeply unethical, threatens life on earth and in the long run will be financially devastating. All people must join efforts for a transition to the renewable and sustainable society, and this process must start immediately! According to the World Bank’s Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on climate change and the economy, delays will dramatically increase costs.

It is politically irresponsible and unethical not to develop alternative and renewable sources quickly. It is meaningless to let tax payers all over the world continue to give monetary gifts to the world’s richest people so that they may continue to destroy our common environment! Only by gradually weaning ourselves from our oil addiction and build a new, environmentally responsible economy we can ensure future generations a genuine opportunity for a brighter, cleaner, and a more dynamic and attractive future.


Global warming and climate change

Source: Cowtan and Way Annual temperature variations are variations in weather. Climate is average parameters over 30 years. Focusing on one year is unscientific cherry-picking https://www.skepticalscience.com/cowtan_way_surface_temperature_data_update.html

Source: Cowtan and Way
Annual temperature variations are variations in weather. Climate is average parameters over 30 years. Focusing on one year is unscientific cherry-picking https://www.skepticalscience.com/cowtan_way_surface_temperature_data_update.html

Pause in global warming?

Fossil fuels, Climate change and environmental impacts

Pollution from fossil fuels

Extreme and freaky weather

The Arctic and the Antarctic

Methane and climate change

Tipping points

Biodiversity and climate change

Agriculture and climate change

Oceans and Acidification

Rising sea levels

Diseases and climate change

Oil and economy

Mitigation and adaptation

Peak oil 


Fracking and unconventional oil sources


Renewable energy


Climate change and conflicts

Climate change and development

Climate migration

 This article has jointly been written by 

Dagny Nyfelt, Sven Åke Bjørke, Ellen Schei Tveitdal, Toril E. Storengveien and Odd Skaug Syvertsen on behalf of the Grandparents climate action campaign

About svenaake

University Teacher.
This entry was posted in Environment, Fossil fuels, Sustainable development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Dismantle the oil age

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