Photo Essay

Crisis: The Day the Oil Stopped Pumping

Crisis No. 70

Crisis: The Day the Oil Stopped Pumping is a photographic narrative that ponders the question of what would happen to the United States if it ran out of oil? Oil is a non-renewable energy resource that is becoming scarce. Currently there is no alternative plan in place for the day when oil can no longer be produced. Without an alternative plan the world will find itself in a situation that would take us back to a time before electricity.

Demand for oil is exceeding supply due to over population and countries becoming more industrialized and entering the world oil market. There is still much discussion amongst geologists and scientists as to whether we are in the beginning stages of peak oil or whether we past it in the 1970s'. Peak oil occurs when global production reaches a peak of petroleum extraction. There is however, common consensus even from oil companies that peak oil exists.

It is becoming increasing difficult to find places to extract oil worldwide. Because of a production decline it will become too expensive to extract what remains in the depths of the earth and drive costs beyond an affordable level for consumers. In a short fifty years, America went from being the number one exporter of oil to the number one importer because demand has exceeded supply. Now the United States consumes more oil than it produces. We will perhaps never see cheap oil again. At some point it won't be worth the effort to drill for whatever is left in the ground and that's when the oil derricks will stop pumping.

Oil is so much a part of our daily lives that we are unaware of our dependency on it and of the hardship experienced by those involved in its exploration and extraction. Oil workers are killed or injured due to transportation accidents, accidents with objects, equipment, fires and explosions. Spills such as the BP oil disaster in the Gulf are responsible for the death of oilrig workers and untold counts to fish and wildlife. The serious negative impact from such disasters to the ecosystem will take decades to recover. The economic fallout from such a disaster comes at a very high price.

As we go about our days, we don't realize that we are using over six thousand household products that are derived from petroleum. Products that one would never imagine petroleum would be used to make such as toothpaste. We continue to devise ways to acquire more oil and explore other fossil fuels such as gas and coal to maintain our way of life, instead of focusing on ways to further develop renewable energy resources that are cleaner for our air and more energy efficient.

Utilizing renewable resources would not only make the United States energy independent but is essential for us if we are to survive as a society. But oil is such an intrigle part of our existence that it is even needed to make the transition to a cleaner and more energy efficient society. The transition needs to happen while we are still able to extract oil on a somewhat reasonable level. An ironic and frightening thought is that there won't be enough oil to make the transition.

So what would happen the day the oil stops pumping? The affects on medicine, culture, transportation, trade, economic stability and food production would be on a global scale and lead to widespread poverty. Starvation and anarchy could ensue in the most extreme cases and more wars could be waged for acquisition of what's left of the oil supply. Is our thirst for oil, a limited energy resource, so great that we are willing to lose a countless amount of lives and destroy the world, as we know it? Fives words explain what the world would be like if that happens. Back to the dark ages. One word explains it all. Death.

These are heavy issues to be contemplated for sure. My objective for this photographic narrative is not to lecture or take sides on a controversial issue. As a consumer I have much to learn and live up to myself. Instead, the extreme picture painted in this piece is meant to provoke thought and become a motivator for change. If the methods exist and creative minds are out there to push us forward to a new era of energy there should be no question but to move in a more progressive path instead of beating the same old drum. If we as a society don't reprogram our way of thinking and continue to rely on limited, non-renewable energy resources, we will likely follow the fate of the Mayans and Romans who plundered themselves out of existence to maintain their lifestyles. Lack of political will and a public hesitant to change is tragic. But without a plan for change it will be tragedy for sure.

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Hi there!

thought you might like this story!

—The JPG team

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