Crude oil is currently our most important global source of energy. It is vital in the manufacture of many modern materials. But the worlds supply of oil is finite, its price is unstable and our reliance on oil has damaging environmental consequences. This free course, Living without oil, explains why developing alternatives to oil is an essential and urgent task for humanity.
Course learning outcomes
After studying this course, you should be able to:
demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the core concepts, principles and language relating to the science and social issues appropriate to the development of alternatives to oil products
demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the impact of the use of oil on the future of our planet
express and rewrite concepts in an objective and factually correct way
make sense of information presented in different ways, including textual, numerical or graphical material.
The text for this course dates from 2011 and it shows! It is almost universally accepted today that the climate change crisis is arguably the greatest threat facing human societies in the next few decades. There is a very real possibility that human civilization, and maybe the global environment itself, will not survive. The widespread use of fossil fuels, particularly oil now that coal use has diminished significantly, has been demonstrated as the main driver of climate change. There is an increasing awareness, even at governmental level, that fossil fuel use must be stopped ASAP – but implementation of practical and effective plans remains far too slow. The seriousness of the climate change issue is simply not reflected in the course content. It is now not a question of “Can we live without oil?” but far more “How can we live without oil?”.
Another issue that is completely ignored in the course is the question of energy security. This has been a niche concern for many years and has also been raised by military experts as a potential serious problem. At the political level this has simply been ignored, until early 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. Gas, and oil, prices dramatically increased followed by electricity (as gas-fired power stations dominate most western nations). Economic chaos ensued with massive hardships imposed on whole populations. The folly of being dependent on just one primary energy source from an unfriendly country – viz Russian gas – has been exposed as the stupidity that was always warned about.
The problems have also been compounded by the global reliance on an economic model that fixes energy prices largely independent on the actual costs of supply, but on an artificial free-market. The economics of energy supply, and hence oil supply, are clearly broken and not fit for purpose, but the whole economic model is so imbedded in political thinking that there is little chance of it changing soon. For this course material to be so obviously in hock to the current economic models is disappointing given the existential threats we now face. We are now realizing that these concerns are of far greater importance than the economics, but that is not reflected in this course.
So overall, interesting with some useful factual data but largely overtaken by events since it was written. The emphasis is wrong nowadays and it’s relevance for today’s world is debatable.