Q&A Friday #64: Will They Replace Oil As A Fuel In Our Lifetimes?

Question: “Do you think a viable alternative fuel source to replace petroleum will be discovered within or lifetime?” — Good_Ol_Boy

Answer: It’s impossible to know exactly what the next big technological leap forward will be, but if I had to guess, I’d say oil shale.

Israel’s already using it for fuel, most estimates seem to say that it will be financially viable at $40 or less per barrel (oil is currently at $66 a barrel), and the US has enormous reserves, roughly equivalent to 5 times the size of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves.

Technologically, we seem to be fairly close to being able to use oil shale on a large scale and once we get there, it will drop our reliance on foreign sources of oil considerably.

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Once that happens, my guess is that the drive for alternative fuel sources will probably slacken quite a bit, since that sort of research is generally driven by attempts to find a way to get cheaper fuel.

But still, you never know when there may be a big breakthrough and if I were guessing — well, let’s just say I have a lot of confidence in the skill of American scientists and a lot of optimism about the future, so I believe they will probably come up with something better and cheaper than oil within the next 40-50 years.

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