Imagine the American countryside laden with millions of useless automobiles. A society in a state of shock and void of growth, the result of a civilization that had its foundation crumble as they ran out of their precious resources.
Caltech physicist David Goodstein, author of “Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil,” forecasted such a horrific scene to happen in the near future in a discussion at the Baker Forum Sunday in the Spanos Theatre after he received The Wiley Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to science and education.
Drastic in nature, Goldstein explained that at the current rate of consumption with the known amounts of fossil fuels in reserve, that the earth will be depleted of fossil fuels in roughly 40 to 50 years.
“Civilization as we know it will come to an end in this century when the fuel runs out,” Goodstein said.
Despite a population that pails in comparison to other countries, America’s consumption and reliance on fossil fuels for its well-being and growth remains dangerously high, a trend that has remained since the first oil well was resurrected over 100 years ago, Goodstein said.
“Though we make up five percent of the world’s population, we consume one-quarter of world’s fossil fuels,” Goodstein said.
Goodstein explained that since the 70s the world has been consuming more fossil fuel than it has been finding and that an oil crisis will occur when reserves start to deplete as demand remains constant and even increases.
“Who knows when the oil crises will occur, maybe five, 10 or 20 years, but when it does it will be very much like in the 70s when there were mile-long lines at gas stations,” Goodstein said.
Goldstein elaborated on alternative fuels like Nuclear Fission and Fusion, wind, solar, biomass and hydrogen and said that currently none are a viable source. He added that despite Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bush mentioning hydrogen as an alternative, that with current technology it takes six gallons of gas to make only one gallon of hydrogen.
When asked if he thought a resolution to the nation’s status of diminishing reserves and increased reliance was on the horizon, Goodstein remain doubtful.
“I think that unless a president or leader challenges people to rebuild society into a non-fossil fuel based society in a similar way that Kennedy pushed for space travel by challenging society to be in space in 10 years, then I don’t see a change happening soon,” Goodstein said.
Drawing a crowd larger than capacity, attendees were ushered into another auditorium where they watched the speech on large screens.
Though well versed and knowledgeable about the subject, some attendees left with questions.
“I thought it was really scientific and that it raised flags regarding our situation, but I thought he would have addressed the solution more,” business junior Jessica Gibbons said.
Despite some attendees wanting more of a solution to the problem, the speech raised awareness regarding the severity of the consequences in depleting the earth of fossil fuels by presenting the information in a straightforward manner.
“I thought he (Goldstein) was really knowledgeable about the topic, but the predictions were extreme – extreme enough that I hope it isn’t true,” business sophomore Sarah Vernizzi said.