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Imagine what life would be like in a world without oil petroleum products

Updated on December 5, 2013

The Problem

The Gulf Oil spill inspired a panic reminiscent of the OPEC Oil Embargo back in 1973-1974. "We've got to reduce our dependence on oil!" Americans shout, as oil slicks our ducks and pristine beaches. "We've got to go back to Alternative Fuels..."

President Jimmy Carter "attempted to awaken the American public to the idea that the energy crisis was a more or less permanent condition reflecting the real draw-down of the nation's number one nonrenewable resource. He attempted to fashion a coherent national energy policy, passed tax and rate incentives for hydroelectric development, restarted Nixon's Project Independence to develop synthetic hydrocarbon and alternative fuels. In April 1977, Carter declared the nation's energy predicament was the moral equivalent of war. He also installed solar water heaters on the White House roof and a wood stove in the White House, which were both subsequently removed by Ronald Reagan."

Of course, Carter was ridiculed for his Scientific Vision and degraded to a One Term Guy. I was on track to become an Information Specialist at the Solar Energy Resource Institute when it happened- or fantasized, anyway, that my MBA would get me a job in their expanding Golden office. My optimism deflated when Reagan took office and cut funding for SERI.

I became a bit cynical about the Republican Party, became and Independent and American dependency on oil continued unchecked. As of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill April 20, "US offshore oil production of 565 million barrels per year equated to roughly 1.5 million barrels per day (30% of total US oil production); contrast that figure with U.S. current oil consumption of 21 million barrels per day."

Imagine Life without Oil Dependence

It is overwhelming to imagine that some day fish in the Gulf might be immune to oil spills.

In a world void of petroleum products, we would have no propane or gasoline. Helium, sulfur and other biproducts of petroleum will be scarce.

One Wikipedia site claims the petroleum industry is of importance to "the maintenance of industrial civilization itself, and thus is a critical concern for many nations."

Isn't The Industrial Age part of our historic PAST? Transitioning from the Information Age to the Connection Age requires new sensibilities and skills.

Certainly the over 400 million people worldwide who work in the oil business will be forced to change their habits. These people work in labor, trades, technical, administrative and professional roles. In a world without the petroleum business, there will be lots of unemployed folk looking to create and manage relationships across knowledge goods, hardware, and people.

Living without these products may deflate your commitment to Clean Energy sources.

Toys/Dolls/Balloons/Roller skate wheels/Model cars/Wading pools/Crayons/Milk jugs. Children survived with trees and rocks for centuries.

Tents/Skis/Cameras/Boats/Motorcycle helmets/Beach umbrellas/Fishing lures/Fishing rods/Fishing boots/Life jackets/Golf balls/Golf bags/Tennis rackets/Dice. New adult leisure activities won't be that difficult to generate.

Unbreakable dishes/Refrigerator linings/Electric blankets/salad bowls/Umbrellas/Ice chests/Ice buckets/Ice cube trays/Clotheslines. And there will be no Luggage to pack for a hasty exit.

Tires/Car sound insulation/Sports car bodies/Car battery cases/Safety glass/Oil filters/Fan belts. Transportation options will change. That's why we have engineers.

Shoes/Purses/ Dresses/Pajamas/Pants/Permanent Press clothing/Sweaters/Panty hose. What did early man do to cover herself? Designers, draw it in the sand!

Yarn/Glue/Dyes/Candles/Rubber Cement/Caulking/Putty/Electrician's tape/Transparent tape/Synthetic rubber/Paint Brushes/Paint rollers/Plastic wood/Linoleum/TV cabinets/Awnings/Water pipes/Garden hoses/Floor wax/Soap dishes/Upholstery/House paint/Curtains/Tool racks/Ammonia/Fertilizer/Toilet seats/Roofing/Carpeting/Wire insulation/Folding doors/Shower doors/Shower curtains/Roofing shingles/Plywood adhesive/. Caves are adaptable and cozy I am told.

Combs/Soft Contact lenses/Faucet washers/Trash bags/Hand lotion/Shampoo/Cold cream/Hair coloring/Deodorant/Hair curlers/Eyeglasses/Sunglasses/ Nail polish/False teeth/Lipstick/Petroleum jelly/Shaving cream/Toothbrushes/Toothpaste/Drinking Cups/Perfume/ Shoe polish/DISPOSABLE DIAPERS. There is an alternative to toothbrushes. Please say it is so.

Mops/Dishwashing liquid/Vitamin capsules/Food preservatives/Rubbing alcohol/Insect repellent/Antihistamines/Insecticides/Antiseptics/Anesthetics/Detergents/BandAids/Aspirin/Artificial limbs/Heart valves/Hearing aids/Vaporizers/Cortisone. I'm getting a bit overwhelmed.

Parachutes! I want to bury my head in my Pillow! But NO, those too are off the list.

My Telephone has been confiscated. I pull out Marks' guitar, but alas it has no Guitar Strings. Loudspeakers, VCRS, Movie Film... GONE!

Credit cards have become toxic waste. Wait... some things never change.

Ridding your home of Petroleum Products

Pedestrians in oil dependent nations will find it necessary to wean themselves of objects they've grown accustomed to. Objects like Ink or Ballpoint pens. No problem, right? We have pencils and the Internet...


According to Scribd, "computer manufacturing is energy intensive: the ratio of fossil fuel use to product weight is 11, an order of magnitude larger than the factor of 1-2 for many other manufactured goods. This high energy intensity of manufacturing, combined with rapid turnover in computers, results in an annual life cycle energy burden that is surprisingly high: about 2600 MJ per year, 1.3 times that of a refrigerator."

In other words, computers rely on fossil fuels to exist. Pencils will have to do. Unless manufacturing pencils also utilizes fossil fuels. What a web we weave...

But wait! The Industrial Technologies Program is on it! Look at all the books... this means research, which means HOPE!

Brainstorming a change of perspective

What about harnessing Starpower?


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    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      billy, hit the nail, didn't you?! It will not be a quick change, but it's coming.

      Nicks, yes as always, the US has to be the example. Everyone can hate us but we have to be responsible anyway. I am sorry, but it is difficult to- as a nation- always be on the receiving end of criticism. We all need to be examples. We can't pass it off on one country.

      In fact, the threat of black carbon in India: "...With no cars and little electricity, Kohlua's emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot — also known as black carbon — from millions of villages like this one in developing countries, is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change,"

      and China's unfettered economic growth: "...The quality of air in Chinese cities is increasingly tainted by coal-burning power plants, grit from construction sites and exhaust from millions of new cars squeezing onto crowded roads, according to a government study issued this week. Other newly released figures show a jump in industrial accidents and an epidemic of pollution in waterways,"

      leave me wondering whether it matters one bit what the US does or doesn't do.

      Have a nice day and thanks for commenting.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Writing as a European, I really do think that the US has to cut down on petroleum products and become more ecologically responsible. As the most powerful nation on Earth, the US must lead by example. By so doing, it may leave an indeligible mark (to its great credit)that will last for centuries to come.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      10 years ago

      Storytellus great hub and people when they go on about oil companies etc have have no idea how much they rely on them. Your hub highlights that and shows how you can change - plastics and renewable energy are the two biggies.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Good point, nicomp. I wrote a hub on that yesterday, lol. Great minds... Thanks for your comment! The little guys are the ones who change the world.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      10 years ago from Ohio, USA

      If eliminating dependency on petrol is such a huge deal, as many folks working in the renewable energy industries seem to think it is, then we should be able to do it without suckling at the government teat. Let's not blame far-away bureaucrats, yes? Let's dig into our own pockets and leverage what we can control rather than trying to legislate compliance. No one forces us to use plastic or to put gasoline in our vehicles or to purchase products delivered in trucks. No one forces us to use electricity derived from burning fossil fuels.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Shalini, is it grim? I don't think of it as grim. I see it as information. Sharing information helps us move toward viable solutions, right? I read your article on Peter Proctor and I appreciate his commitment and generosity of spirit. Happily, he is not the only one dedicated to improving the world one plot at a time. I feel a hub coming on... lol.

      Amanda, I completely agree with you. I think this is where I am going with the above comment to Shalini. I hadn't read your comment when I answered her. Bottom up all the way! This is what her article on Proctor is about, in fact... is that accurate, Shalini?

      Thanks to you both for caring and passionate responses.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      tonymac, you make excellent points as always. One concern I had about wind power is its destructive effects on birds. I found a site that addresses my concern: I am glad people are examining this stuff from a practical point of view versus an emotional one. So many times this becomes a campaign point for one party or the other.

      I awoke thinking of writing a Jimmy Carter hub. I love this man. All Americans did not diss him. As with Africa, there is no such thing as All when it comes to popular opinion! It happens that the majority did, because they went ape over Reagan. But all Americans did not go ape over Reagan either. Although without his investment in computer research, I suppose you and I would not have met.

      And it is lovely to have met you!

      Hugs, Barbara

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      10 years ago from UK

      Right now the human race is pelting headlong, helter-skelter on a collision course with disaster. I just finished reading a hub about the oil spill which spells out exactly how this desparate situation might further escalate, and I came away feeling really angry with the businessmen and politicians who continually put their bank balances ahead of the needs of humanity.

      As your excellent hub so clearly explains, we are over-whelmingly oil-dependant, and when you start looking at the list of oil-based and oil-derived products in our day-to-day lives, you begin to marvel that there's any oil left to harvest.

      My feeling is that change in the 21st century will not be driven from the top down, but from the bottom up. From communities and families, and people coming together with simple but inspirational ideas. Eventually there will be a tipping point, and perhaps it will come sooner than we imagine.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      10 years ago from India

      Hi Story - you've painted a rather grim picture and the tragic part is, we've slowly woven this web around ourselves till it looks like there's no way out. The thing is, there are alternatives that just haven't been allowed to see the light of day. What we need to do perhaps, wherever in the world we are, is to bring these issues to the fore and fight about them and get them implemented instead of focussing on the people on top and whether or not we like them.

      I see Tony's point but I also want to bring it to his and your attention that you can break the stranglehold of even giants like Monsanto. It's being done in the grassroots level in India by a man from NZ who's well past his prime. Sometimes, all it takes is ONE person or ONE group of people. I think the same can be done for oil.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      I really liked the vid of Chris Turner and the point he makes about the value of things not being included in the current economic model. I think that is one way to start looking at these issues differently. It's not just a case of doing away with fossil fuels but of looking at the whole of life in a different way. Understanding the carbon footprint idea is useful, but it can't be the whole story. The carbon footprint is a measure, not a goal in and of itself. The goal has to be a world that is fit for and supports joyous and healthy human life. A world of abundance not shortages.

      There has been a slogan used by many companies and organisations over the years, that "our people are our greatest asset," and then they continue to use the people as though they were worthless, just to be exploited and when something goes wrong get rid of them. We need to get to a situation where people are at the centre of everything. And people need the connections that run throughout life, from simplest to most complex. So we can't just say "Drill. baby, drill" without considering the effects of the drilling platform on the migration patterns of the plankton in the water, because that might affect the life cycle of the whales in the antarctic - I'm exaggerating, sure, but the point remains that if everything is connected, as I believe it is, then everythning we do, every decision we make, has to be made in the light of what the effects will be elsewhere.

      Arguing about whether global warming is real or not is just silly. We need to take seriously the fact that the way we live has an impact on the world at large and that when that impact is negative we need to do something to reduce or change it. One simple example is the issue of GM foods and seeds. When the seeds produce plants that cannot produce more seeds that is a problem because then the subsistence farmer in the remote rural areas of Africa, for example, can no longer reserve some of her produce to plant next season, but has to make the long and weary trip to a store where she can buy more seeds. That's simply exploitation of her labour, for which she gets little return and the company making and selling the seeds makes massive profits.

      I'm rambling and will stop here! Thanks for the very interesting and useful Hub, as always! Will look out for the Turner book - I think it sounds wonderful.

      BTW - I have long felt that the US would one day be very sorry that Carter was treated the way he was. He has always come across to me as a decent, honest and visionary person with a lot of genuine compassion in his heart.

      Love and peace


    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Nellieanna, your enthusiasm is contagious! Thank you so much for all of your comments. I agree, I agree, I agree!

      wikinvest says, "Alternative energies like wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as alternative fuels like biofuels, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and fuel cells all see increases in demand when the price of oil, their main competitor, increases."

      So you can see that oil companies do not necessarily benefit from high oil prices. Also, the largest percentage of oil in a 42 gallon barrel goes to energy uses, so it does make sense to focus on changing this first. The other products you mentioned can be phased out as new materials become available.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      10 years ago from TEXAS

      I'm so into this. It's so necessary! My life is in its later years but I have children, grandchildren and quite a few great-grandchildren, as well as some beloved step-family who will be LIVING these conditions for years to come.

      I quite agree that individual efforts DO matter. We can and must DO what is available to do, from our kitchens to our creativity and any other resource at our disposal. Our voices can make a difference too.

      I've just been to my southwest Texas ranch where the wind is constant & lots of open space. I've thought about wind-driven energy for quite awhile and on the return trip, we passed a large field of humongous wind generators. Such a wonderful resource!

      Of course, they can't make Barbie dolls out of wind - or dishwashing detergent, manufactured vitamins, antihistamines, etc. But those are all chemical formulas made from basic "stuff" which is here on our planet. So why must they be made from fossil fuel? If they didn't exist before FF was found and applied, it was probably because they weren't envisioned or NEEDED (!!) - Who knows how many "essential" products we've come to depend on were made necessary BY the extensive use of fossil fuels & their many by-products? It's a self-generating industry, really.

      Besides, the economic climate being what it is, there may be more & more need for basic "needs" and less urgency for the frivolous anyway.

      Another thing I saw in storage while there was the "carry-cooker" with which my mother cooked meals for herself, my dad and my 3 elder siblings - out on the open desert while Dad was drilling water wells. It was in the early 1920s -quite awhile before I came into being.

      This used no fuel except whatever scrappy wood they could find. Concrete discs were heated over open campfire to blazing hot and then dropped into 2 deep cylindrical insulated wells, and various cooking vessels in the sizes (whole and fractional) which would add up to the cylindrical shape and size of the wells were used to cook everything they had to eat out there. Mother could even bake a cake in that thing!

      They slept in tents on bedrolls. My elder siblings were mere tots, so one can only imagine the challenge Mother had to keep them entertained & out of harm's way out there for long periods of time. But they had the grit and determination and made it work. Granted, Dad's Model T drilling machine used fossil fuel. So - it began as a mixture. Perhaps it could still be a mixture with less dependence on the FF?

      I like so much the additions lmmartin contributed too. Wow - this is a fantastically thought-provoking hub. And I prefer to be optimistic! It CAN be done, overcome, fixed! Many of the major changes will have to be in people's minds & hearts. That will be a major challenge.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      ethel, you and I, we strive for optimism, right?! I believe we can transform this destructive pathway with the help of nature and our intelligent youth, allowing for a bright future. I have three children. I have to believe and enable this as best I can!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      10 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      For you and I the possibly dismal future will not matter, but for the young what a legacy we have left them

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Martie, you could probably begin with your own home and your own lifestyle. Every little bit helps. Heck, become an activist...

      Thanks for your concerned interest. I think educating ourselves helps as well. We share in our conversations and change the world, lol.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      This issue is quite alarming, especially if you can’t do anything about it, except urging our governments to act. Great hub, Storyteller! Before I saw the last video, I recalled the stone- and iron ages.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Rob, this is the first time anyone was sparked by me, I believe, lol. Thank you so much for sharing that- it set off fireworks in my brain.

      Meanwhile, your struggle is so deeply felt. I honor you.

    • Kharisma1980 profile image


      10 years ago from Toronto

      This is a great Hub, my friend, especially because I'm struggling to find out how to live a different way. I often get sparked creatively when I read your hubs.

      In peace,


    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      nextstopjupiter, we give power to the "dirty oil" business by continuing our dependence. We need to wean ourselves off, but it takes money to change our manufacturing processes, our cars, etc. I am optimistic that when the momentum of the masses swings toward renewables, things will happen fast!

      Bob, cool. I will check and see if you wrote a hub about it. We live in a passive solar house. I would like to get some solar panels some day, when we are back on our feet.

      Thank you both for your comments!

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      10 years ago from New Brunswick

      I am a consultant to a company that sells rooftop wind turbines and know that changing your energy source to an appropriate renewable one is a major step in reducing our oil dependence.

    • nextstopjupiter profile image


      10 years ago from here, there and everywhere

      In a few decades we are running out of oil and other fossile fuels, and what comes next? The only chance to survive is to use renewable energy sources, and we should start to use these sources rather today than tomorrow. But as long as there is the big money and all the manipulation behind this dirty oil business, I am not very optimistic ...

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Immartin, lucky you earning a living in renewables. Is your husband hiring?

      Thanks for your comments. Feel free to stop by anytime and share a few more.

      Though I'm not willing to blame it all on the oil lobby. There are other economic interests as greedy...

    • lmmartin profile image


      10 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      One more thought -- when I say other nations are light years ahead, I'm including things like decent high-speed rail services and other forms of public transportation along with alternative fuels and government sponsored conversion kits for existing automobiles. Not only do we need to find alternative fuels, but we need to look for alternatives to single driver transportation. North America as a whole truly lags behind in this as we are so devoted to our private cars.

      Now I promise not to come back, having finally said it all -- at least all that comes to mind now.

    • lmmartin profile image


      10 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      PS: forgot to say great hub.

      And one more thing, in answer to the comment you need traditional fuels in order to transport corn, sugar (or anything else that will ferment, including garbage) to the processing site, wouldn't those transportation devices use this alternative energy too?

    • lmmartin profile image


      10 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Just as your husband works in the oil industry, mine is Controller of a Renewable Resource company. And one thing I do know, for everything there is a solution. The biggest: our transportation needs can be met if we apply our will and wealth toward it. The technology exists, but is deemed not economically feasible by the intrenched status quo, ie. the oil lobby.

      As things stand now, America will continue to fall behind in the alternatives already in place in other parts of the world.

      What I foresee is a huge new third-world nation, lagging behind in technology and services but still patting themselves on the back for being the greatest nation on earth, and all the while still arguing over who has the answers, the left or the right.

      Wake up! Other nations are grappling with these problems while America expends energies in debate (no not debate, just downright squabbling) and the writing is on the wall. Sooner or later the crunch will come and America will not be prepared. Other nations are already light-years ahead -- come to grips with the truth.

      Tell your representatives and those so resistant to change they want to run backwards, you want an active and aggressive program to develop those solutions that already exist but are not allowed to grow.

      Here's an example: sugar is the best source of ethyl-alcohol and one of the cheapest commodities on earth. As more and more nations are turning to this resource, now running at approximately 15 -20% more than gasoline, the oil companies are manipulating their prices. Whenever sugar based ethyl-alcohol become cheaper than oil, the price of oil drops.

      Coincidence? I don't think so.


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