Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

When will we run out of oil? 50 years? 100? As it turns out, we may never actually run out of this incredibly useful substance.
Christopher McFadden
Pumpjacks working
Pumpjacks working


  • The discovery and exploitation of crude oil have literally transformed the world beyond all recognition.
  • This was such a great discovery, that our modern world is literally fuelled by it.
  • If the crude oil supply was to suddenly dry up, could we survive?

Crude oil is one of the most important resources we have ever discovered. Oil and the many products made from it have literally and figuratively transformed the world beyond all recognition. However, as we are constantly reminded, crude oil is not in infinite supply. After all, it took millions of years to "brew". 

Estimates vary, but if our current consumption continues apace, we may well see a time in the near future when it is completely exhausted. But, are such claims true? Have we reached what is commonly referred to as "peak oil?".

Or, perhaps, just perhaps, we are looking at the problem from the wrong angle?

But, before we get into the weeds about the future of oil, let's spend a little time discussing the nature of a "finite" resource. 

Are natural resources actually finite?

Humans like to build stuff. We've been doing it for as long as our species has existed, and will continue to do so into the distant future. 

Making stuff needs materials, and depending on what we are making, and how much of it, this can consume large amounts of that raw resource(s). For any product you can think of, somewhere in its supply chain raw materials have been extracted at some point and "used up" in the final product.

As more and more stuff is made over time, it would seem logical that there must be a point when the supply of any material is used up? But is this actually true?

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

How you think about this might, ultimately, all come down to whether you are a pessimist or an optimist at heart. The former will adamantly believe that because there is only a limited amount of stuff humans could ever get our hands-on (like the entire mass of the Earth, say), then resources must, by definition, be limited. This is especially true if our consumption of a material exceeds the rate of its replenishment. It is this fact that basically determines if a resource is considered "renewable" or not

The more optimistic at heart, however, realize that there is a big universe out there full of all the potential sources of stuff we could ever need. If we ever did run out of something like copper on Earth, we could, with enough effort, "pop-out" to space and get some from another planet or asteroid. 

Of course, this "space stuff" is also by definition limited, but it is such an enormous quantity that it is, effectively, infinite. All we need to do is go out there and get it. Until such time as we can do this, however, we will need to make do with what we have here on Earth. Thankfully, we humans have a great knack for getting better at doing things over time.

When required of us, we have managed to find ways to use stuff more efficiently, find alternatives that are just as good, or, indeed, develop ways to recycle or recover stuff from other stuff if needed. We have also found ways to use materials for entirely different purposes from what we are used to using something for.

Take gold, for example. For most of the time that humans have been able to extract and refine it, gold has mostly been used as jewelry or as a means of exchange. With the advent of the electronics age, however, gold was found to also be a fantastic electrical conductor. 

While this does, obviously, increase the relative consumption of the metal, humans have found ways to use it more sparingly over time, or use alternatives instead. We have even found new sources for this precious metal once thought impossible — "fool's gold". 

Not only that, but we have also devised ways to recover gold from old used electronics. So, while gold, as a resource, is being "used up", in one sense, it is not being destroyed, per se.

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
The black upwards curves in the rock are coal seams. Source: fireballsedai/Flickr

It is simply being "stored" in the stuff we make it from. Theoretically, we could recover it all in the future if we wanted to. 

So, for all intents and purposes, gold is effectively in infinite supply, albeit rare. The same is probably true for things like crude oil too.

In reality, what people mean when they say a resource is "running out" is that it will become more expensive or take more energy to remove and process than it is worth — or that so little can be extracted that it is not worth the effort — not that it will literally be gone never to be seen again. This is also true of crude oil.

Unless its products are combusted, crude oil can be "stored" in the form of things like plastic and plastic bags. In a future where crude oil becomes restrictively expensive to extract, could we see a future where landfills become a source of hydrocarbons for fuel?

Amazingly, this is not pure science fiction. Some researchers are already working on ways to convert plastic bags back into oil. If ever made economically viable, our tendency to bury our old trash could, perhaps, be thought of as a way of "saving" potential fuel for the future. 

A fascinating thought. 

But what about gold in space probes, satellites, etc? While Earth-derived material is "lost" in a sense when fired off into space in the form of probes, even the stuff on those could be recovered in the future if we put our minds to it. 

On the subject of chucking stuff into space, some new innovations, like kinetic launchers, are currently being developed. If successful, this could "ease" the pressure on raw materials needed to make rockets. 

The main thing to understand is that resources are only really as limited as our imagination. After all, mass (and energy) can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted. Even processes like nuclear fission, or indeed fusion, could, theoretically, be reversed, although it would take a lot of energy to do so.

So long as the investment of energy, and effort, is deemed profitable in some way, of course. There would be little point in consuming more energy in creating a potential fuel if were to not get as much of it. You need to get a return on your investment

But there is even more to it than that. Even the mass of our planet is not constant either. It actually changes daily. 

But, how and why? 

Earth, and other planets, act like giant kinds of vacuum cleaners as they travel around the cosmos. Asteroids, space dust, and the odd comet all get "eaten" by Earth over time. 

According to some estimates, Earth's mass increases by around 43 tonnes every single day. Great news right? 

But wait, it is a little more complicated than that. The Earth also losses mass over time too — mostly from its "leaky" atmosphere. The Earth's enormous mass does a great job of keeping a thin veil of gas around its crust, but it is not perfect. 

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Could plastic bags be a source of fuel in the future? Source: Kate Ter Haar/Flickr

Lighter elements like hydrogen, helium, and oxygen are continually escaping into space. This is compounded by the constant "ripping" away of gases from the Earth thanks to phenomena like the solar winds. As a consequence, Earth loses up to several hundred tonnes of mass every day — a net loss. 

Don't fret though, it will take many trillions of years for Earth to completely "evaporate" at this rate. By that time, the Sun (and Earth) would be long dead anyway. 

But what about "raw" organic resources like trees or animals? If we make a species extinct through overconsumption, surely that would mean that resource is lost forever? 

Perhaps not. Plants are a little simpler as so long as we have access to viable seeds, we could, theoretically, bring a species back from the dead. For animals. of course, things are a little more complex. 

So long as we have access to some viable DNA of a creature in question, we could possibly, using bioengineering, recreate them too. Scientists, for example, are currently attempting to "de-extinct" some animals, like the Woolly Mammoth

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

More interestingly though, humans have even found ways to create artificial versions, or alternatives, of "living" natural resources. Synthetic meat is a prime example. We'll let you decide if such things are technically the same as the original or not. 

So, are resources limited? By definition, technically yes, but practically, no. Pedantic perhaps, but always bear in mind that raw resources are only ever changed in form, not destroyed when we use them — from the perspective of the conservation of mass. The technicalities of reversing chemical reactions aside (think compounds as opposed to mixtures and elements), we can never really run out of anything, ever. All we would need to do is devise a way to recover or "reconvert" something to get a raw resource back in the future. But whether such a process is developed, or not, ultimately comes down to its cost-to-benefit. 

How much oil is left in the world?

Estimating the remaining oil reserves of the planet is notoriously difficult, and frankly, subject to constant change. The reasons for this vary but are primarily dictated by our technological ability to exploit oil reserves in the first place and also the difficulty of estimating future demand. 

That being said, at current consumption, we have by some accounts an estimated 47 years of oil left to be extracted. That equates to somewhere in the region of 1.65 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves. Other sources up this estimate a bit, but most agree we have around 50 years left, give or take. 

For reference, a barrel of crude oil is about 42 gallons or about 159 liters. 

With regards to other fossil fuels, we have an estimated 53 years of natural gas, and 114 years of coal left to rip out of the ground. 

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

While that sounds like quite a lot, estimates of 47 years are based on oil consumption being maintained at around 35 and half billion barrels a year, or 97 million barrels of oil a day. Based on the 2016 world population, that works out at around 5 barrels per person per year, or 0.5 gallons per person, per day. 

The main producers of oil to date include countries like Venezuela, who have around 18 percent of the world's share of oil, Saudi Arabia with around 16 percent, Canada with around 10.5 percent, Iran, and Iraq with about 9.5 percent and 8.7 percent respectively. 

Oil has various uses once extracted, but the vast majority is distilled to make liquid fuels like gasoline or is used to make plastic or chemicals. So long as societies around the world maintain their demand for fuel, plastic, and other stuff made, in part, from crude oil, an estimate of 47 years is probably quite conservative.

Especially if the global population, and demand, rises over time. 

However, if the global push for decarbonization is accelerated, or indeed successful, this estimate will prove to be a gross underestimate of remaining reserves. Another problem with estimations of remaining oil reserves is the fact they are necessarily blind to what we don't know. Potential new stocks of oil are found all the time. 

It is also important to note that global proven reserves have increased over time. This, as we previously touched upon, is mainly a consequence of improved technology and extraction methods that have made previously unexploitable oil reserves economically and physically viable for extraction. 

As oil becomes harder and harder to extract, and while demand remains high for oil, improved and innovative methods to extract oil are bound to be investigated and mastered. For example, directional drilling, or the ability to direct a boring head subsurface, was once thought too challenging to make economically viable but is now pretty much standard practice. 

It is highly likely that something equally as innovative will be devised in the future, so long as consumer demand remains high enough. But more on that later. 

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Source: PIF/YouTube

Will we ever run out of oil?

Before we answer this question, we'll need to expand on the term "proven" we mentioned earlier. This is important to understand as it will help us honestly address whether or not oil will ever run out. 

"Proven" oil reserves are those oil reserves that any given region can theoretically extract based on the infrastructure they have in place or plan to have in the near future. This is obviously dependent, as we previously stated, on the oil extraction methods and technology.

However, it is important to note that any oil left in already tapped oil reserves is not necessarily useable. Often termed "heavy" or "sour" oil, this stuff is pretty poor quality. It is also not always in a liquid form and can contain large amounts of contaminants like sulfur. 

Sulfur is a big deal as it is very corrosive to steel, which is obviously not good news for equipment like that used in refineries. Sulfur-rich oil is very complex and energy-intensive to process which obviously increases the cost of bringing it to market. 

One such material is bitumen. This is a very viscous (sticky) low-grade form of crude oil that can be distilled to make petroleum. It can also be used "as is" as a binder for many other things like asphalt, roofing products, damp-proofing, etc. 

It is so sticky that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) often compares it to “cold molasses”. Producers like the CAPP have greatly improved their technological capacity over the past few decades which, by extension, has necessarily increased Canada's proven reserves as a consequence.

Other technological developments like hydraulic fracturing (fracking), have also contributed to increasing the world’s proven reserves despite an increase in global consumption (and attracting controversy). 

Another more recent innovation is our ability to process and extract shale oil, more specifically a material called kerogen (a waxy mixture of hydrocarbon compounds). This tends to be found within shale deposits and needs to be heated to around 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees centigrade) to extract and process. This process converts the solid kerogen into something similar to oil. What's more, there is an absolute glut of this stuff in places like the USA. 

According to some estimates, there are "trillions" of barrels of shale oil in the U.S. alone. However, the actual energy return on energy invested (EROEI) to extract and refine shale oil is so poor that there has been no serious commercial exploitation of oil shale to date.

Another important term to get to grips with is "technically recoverable resources", or TRR for short. This is used to refer to those oil reserves that can be extracted using current methods and technology but may not be profitable to do so. In other words, the oil can be pulled out, but any company doing it will likely lose money doing so — making it pointless.

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

So why would they bother? 

As it happens, according to the Energy Information Authority (EIA), the United States has somewhere in the region of 373 billion barrels of TRR oil. On the other hand, it has only around 47 billion barrels of "proven" reserves. 

Technically recoverable oil is also liable to greatly fluctuate in quantity. 

“Estimates of TRR are highly uncertain, particularly in emerging plays where relatively few wells have been drilled,” explains the EIA. “Early estimates tend to vary and shift significantly over time because new geological information is gained through additional drilling, because long-term productivity is clarified for existing wells, and because the productivity of new wells increases with technology improvements and better management practices.”

By way of comparison, the amount of technically recoverable oil was around 143.5 billion barrels in 1990. Current EIA figures effectively double this today. 

“Technology and geologic knowledge increased faster than U.S. production, therefore increasing estimates of technically recoverable resources through time,” explains Scott Lauermann, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute.

“You cannot take today’s estimates of technically recoverable resources and estimate when we will ‘run out’ because those estimates are based on today’s technology and known formations, not tomorrow’s.”

But, like anything in life, you only know what you know. Potentially there is an even larger amount of undiscovered technically recoverable resources, meaning resources the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) predicts are there. 

“Undiscovered resources are those that are estimated to exist based on geology, geophysics, geochemistry, and our familiarity with similar basins and rock formations. They have not yet been proven to exist via drilling,” explains Alex Demas, a spokesperson for the USGS. 

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

Who knows, there could be an effectively unlimited supply out there. We just don't know it yet.

Will we ever use up all the world's supply of oil? 

In short, no. We've explained the main reasons above, but there is another factor to consider — the relative rarity of a resource. 

Think of the most valuable things you can think of today. What was your answer? Gold? Platinum? Silver? Diamonds?

All good suggestions, and things that carry a relatively high price tag due to their rarity (though silver is often arguably heavily underpriced). These metals are also valued as "stores of value" in and of themselves of course and have been so for a very long time.

But, there is something that is even rarer than these — painite

Painite, believe it or not, is one of the rarest gemstones on the planet. It is also one of the rarest minerals on the planet. It even has a Guinness World Record to prove it. 

After it was first discovered in Burma in 1951, there existed only 2 or 3 specimens of Painite for the next five decades. Although more than 1,000 specimens have now been recovered, most of this material isn’t facetable so can't be used as jewelry.

For this reason, painite is one of the most valuable materials on the planet — currently around $50,000-$60,000 per carat. For precious gems, a carat, in case you are not aware, a carat is a unit of mass used for measuring the weight of diamonds and other precious stones. It is equal to 200 mg or 0.00643 troy oz. 

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

But, there is something even rarer that makes this price tag seem like a bargain — antimatter. 

Antimatter takes vast amounts of energy to create, and can only be made synthetically at present. The production also requires some very specialized equipment that can only produce around 10 billionths of a gram per year. 

For this reason, antimatter is widely considered the most expensive thing by weight on Earth, costing, by some accounts, around $62.5 trillion per gram

All very interesting, but what does this have to do with the "price of fish", or rather oil? Let us now conduct a quick thought experiment.

Let's jump forward in time about 50 years, or so. All proven oil reserves have been used up, and now solutions have been found to tap the technically recoverable ones (or perhaps they have also been tapped). 

If from all the oil that ever existed we are suddenly left with only 1 single bucket of the stuff, what would it cost to use it? So long as it is still valued as a thing, and considering the fact it is now incredibly rare, it would probably be exorbitantly expensive to buy.

If we use some of the figures above for the most valuable substances on the planet, it would probably be in the order of millions to billions for such a small amount. 

With such a price tag, and so long as there is a demand, and customers are willing to pay to have it, you can more or less guarantee some bright spark will find a way to supply it. But, at a sky-high price tag we see in things like precious metals, would anyone in their right mind distill it and use it in their car (assuming combustion engines are still a thing)?

Or would they be more likely to display it, perhaps, contain it in vials and wear it as jewelry? Who knows, we might see a future where diamonds are replaced with tiny oil vials? "Oil is a girl's best friend," certainly has an interesting ring to it. 

While gold and silver are consumed in equipment like electronics (despite being considered "precious") this is because they are excellent electrical conductors when compared to cheaper alternatives. With regards to oil (and its derivatives), there are viable alternative fuels around that work just as well, if not better

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil

But, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Crude oil supplies may never get close to being exhausted anyway. 

As oil becomes harder and harder to extract, and its price inevitably rises, we should reach a tipping point where alternative fuels suddenly become much more attractive. 

And people will vote with their feet and wallet. 

Already, other modes of transport, like electrical vehicles, are often the cheaper option to run when compared to an internal combustion engine (assuming the electricity is generated using non-fossil fuels, of course). As the price of gasoline goes up, this will become even more pronounced.

So if, and likely when, oil begins to become even more restrictively costly in the future, consumers will increasingly shop around for alternatives. If this doesn't happen, which is unlikely, then innovations will soon appear to use fossil fuels ever more efficiently.

Like, for example, innovative ways to burn the fuel more efficiently — like transient plasma ignition. Who knows, we may even have viable nuclear reactor-powered cars?

So, will we ever run completely out of oil, to the point where there is none at all? In short no, it is practically and economically not feasible that this would happen. 

Crude oil will only continue to be extracted so long as it is profitable to do so. Both real and artificial pressures on the industry (like environmental regulations, taxes, etc.) will inevitably see us reach a point where oil becomes too expensive to use as fuel or as a raw material, long before resources even get close to being exhausted. 

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Oil is vital to our modern world.

It's just a matter of time. 

That is unless, of course, some new mega resource of the stuff is found. But, the drive for decarbonization will likely seal crude oil's fate in the long run. We'll all have to wait and see. 

What happens if we ever run out of oil?

To reiterate, this is unlikely to happen for the reasons we've explained above. However, from a practical point of view, we will likely reach a point where all the available oil reserves are effectively depleted.

At this point, oil prices will have risen high enough to make its use uneconomical for most purposes. After all, this is what we really mean when we say "run out" — if it costs $10,000 to fill the tank, or $100 per plastic bag, for almost everyone, that is effectively the same as not having any oil.

If society and technology haven't changed enough to make a complete switch away from oil by the time this happens, the effects will be enormous. Oil literally and figuratively fuelled most of the world's modern economies.

For every product and service, you can think of; the oil will be involved somehow in the supply chain. It might be the raw resource for making parts, like plastic components or chemicals, or oil derivatives (like gasoline or diesel) that will transport some parts from suppliers or the ultimate customer.

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Could the world live without oil?

Oil is used for a great many things beyond fuel. From a typical barrel of oil, about one-half is used for fuels, while the rest is used to make products like asphalt and bitumen, lubricants, naphtha, waxes, and a wide variety of chemicals. Some of this includes medicines like antihistamines, antiseptics, and other essential products like insecticides and fertilizers for farming.

Not to mention the countless jobs directly or indirectly involved in the extraction, treatment, and transportation of the black stuff.

Oil is not just about running our cars and airplanes.

The complete removal of it from the equation would impact many aspects of our lives and, effectively, throw civilization back hundreds of years. Just a cursory look at how the removal of things like fertilizers or antiseptics would have on populations bares not thinking about.

Population death rates would be hit from both ends as people struggle to feed their children, and the elderly become more susceptible to formerly treatable diseases.

This is especially the case in our modern, interconnected, globalized world if materials and products must be shipped between continents and countries over long distances. With an alternative substance to replace each step like-for-like, the impact around the world would be catastrophic for all intents and purposes.

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Oil is used for more than just fuel.

This is especially true for economies that depend on importing staples like grain or other essential goods. We have been given a taste of this, so to speak, from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, for example. In case you are unaware, Ukraine supplies something like 45 million tonnes of grain to the world annually.

This is a basic foodstuff, and millions worldwide depend on it for basic sustenance. The severe disruption of this kind of commodity has historically brought even the most remarkable civilizations, like the Roman Empire, to their knees.

Because there would be a marked reduction in supply, prices for the affected commodity would go through the roof, and only the wealthiest countries could afford to buy them. This could lead to rationing, starvation, and eventually civil unrest in many places worldwide because of the lack of essential foods.

Eventually, inflation would likely worsen, and the quality of life in even the wealthiest nations would degrade to a level not seen for hundreds of years.

Be under no illusion that this wouldn't destabilize many nation-states worldwide. It would also likely cause more wars and mass migration, worsening the problem.

The stable, relatively peaceful times we have lived through since the end of WW2 could be broken forever, and life, as we have grown accustomed to it, would change beyond all recognition.

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
If oil suddenly disappeared, the world would change beyond all recognition, and not in a good way.

For these reasons, among many, a sensible and planned transition from fossil fuels, like oil, to alternative resources will be vital for future peace and prosperity worldwide. This must be treated with the utmost care.

For all the will in the world, humans cannot predict the future and have a history of making things worse by tinkering with highly complex systems like global trade. For this reason, some feel that the best way is to allow the billions of people on the planet to make incremental changes over time to wean us all off the need to consume oil. Others argue that unless changes are imposed, they will never happen.

Rising prices and reduced supply and entrepreneurship could possibly get us there if allowed to run their natural course. Some feel that Central command and control of such a transition would be catastrophic for us all. Others argue this could lead to a disastrous free-for-all in which only the strong (or the best-armed) survive.

Can we live without oil?

With the above being said, it is conceivable that the world could transition away from oil in the long run. Since oil is, by definition, a finite resource, we, as a species, will likely need to replace it sometime in the future.

However, it is essential not to exaggerate the issue. With no crude oil, our species would survive, just as we did before crude oil. Most of the hundreds of thousands of years of existence of human beings transpired without crude oil, and doubtless, we'd survive in the future without it.

Our lives would likely become different from today's, but whether this will be better or worse is unclear. So how and with what could we replace crude oil?

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Can we live without oil?

This is a tricky question to answer, as an exact substitute for oil is nowhere on the horizon. Any switch away from it will likely require developing or discovering a suite of other raw materials that can plug the gap where oil used to be.

However, since around 50 percent of all oil is used for fuel, potential development solutions are already in place. Nuclear power plants, renewable energy sources, and biofuels already exist and can readily be used to provide heating and power for many nations worldwide.

While still in their infancy, biofuels or synthetic fuels can be used as direct replacements for oil-derived fuels with little or no conversion of an internal combustion engine. While making them comes with its own environmental impact issues. But, from a resource supply point of view, biofuels are, theoretically, at least, never-ending.

So long as plants can grow on this planet, we can always have a supply of liquid fuels for our machines.

But, as we mentioned above, fuel is only part of the story. Let's look at the current development of oil substitutes in various industries.

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Medicine relies heavily on the oil industry.

Believe it or not, oil is vitally essential for creating certain medicines. But why?

Well, most pharmaceutical medications are created through chemical processes involving organic compounds. Oil is a rich source of organic compounds that are used in the manufacture of drugs. According to some reports, 99 percent of the feedstocks and reagents used in the production of pharmaceuticals come from petrochemical sources.

Even pharmaceuticals derived from organic materials like plants are frequently refined using petrochemicals, making the production process more effective and less expensive. Others, such as penicillin, an antibiotic made from natural fungus and microorganisms, frequently use phenol and cumene as preservatives.

Pill blister packs, bottles, and other packaging also tend to use large amounts of plastic too. Much of the medical equipment used today, such as heart valves and artificial limbs, as well as a great deal of the cleaning and safety products medical personnel use, are also derived from petroleum products.

The truth is that making and mass-producing pharmaceuticals and medical devices would be complicated without petrochemicals, especially at the scale required to meet global demand.

Most of the time, coatings and capsules for pills are made of polymers. In actuality, time-release medications rely on a polymer made of tartaric acid that slowly dissolves to deliver the precise dosage of medication.

So, pretty important then. Can they be replaced with non-oil-derived substitutes?

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Crude oil derivative are used to make medicine and its packaging.

Are there any oil substitutes currently in development?

As it happens, there are. According to Forbes, several companies are already working on plant-based alternatives as feedstock for more traditional petrochemicals.

One example, Bio-BDO (1,4-butanediol), has been developed by Genomatica (a biotech company) as a natural, sustainable substitute for current petrochemicals. Genomatica uses renewable feedstocks like sugarcane, sugar beets, and other sources of carbohydrates like corn in place of petrochemicals.

They have opened a new biotechnology campus in the U.S., which will be the first one in the U.S. to make commercial-scale renewable BDO using Genomatica's GENO BDO process. The facility will be able to produce more than 65,000 tonnes of BDO annually after it is finished in 2024. The capacity for producing bioBDO will be increased threefold as a result.

While primarily created as a substitute for plastic, spandex, and synthetic polymers, similar chemicals could be modified to supply the medical industry. With more widespread interest and development, using living plants and bacteria (rather than the remains of their long-dead ancestors) is a promising avenue to explore.

These same plant-based chemicals could also be used in other areas where petrochemicals are currently vital, like making plastics, etc.

Another avenue to explore is to recycle somehow or reuse existing oil-derived products. Since there is a substantial potential treasure trove of source material in landfills, this could prove to be a very useful way of still sort of using oil without needing to extract the "virgin" crude oil.

Take plastic bags, for example. Around the world (and sadly in the sea), there are millions of tonnes of "waste" plastic that could, in theory, be used as a feedstock for petrochemicals and other new plastics, etc.

And this, according to the BBC, is exactly what one UK-based company is currently attempting to achieve. Called Recylkcing Technologies, the company is currently developing a machine that can generally treat unrecyclable plastics back into a liquid oil form.

If successful, this sort of initiative would kill two birds with one stone, dealing with waste and reducing society's dependence on crude oil. And this couldn't come at a better time, with something like 88 percent of all plastic used worldwide being either dumped, burned, or leaked into the environment. This indicates that just 12 of the 359 million tonnes of plastic generated each year in the globe get recycled.

Recycling Technologies has created a cutting-edge technology called the RT7000 that converts difficult-to-recycle plastic, like films, bags, and laminated plastics, into an oil called Plaxx® that is utilized as a feedstock for the creation of new plastic.

The RT7000 offers a scalable method to recycle waste plastic anywhere in the world. It is modular and small-scale, made to slot easily onto existing waste treatment and recycling operations.

Things appear to be going well for the company, with them already attracting research funding to develop their technology. It could prove to be a game changer if they can scale this operation.

More importantly, it would inspire other companies to develop similar technologies to compete. Who knows, one day, landfills might become "hot property" for a new kind of plastic bag mining?

Don't worry, we'll never run out of oil
Could plastic bags be the oil fields of the future?

And that is your lot for today.

We've covered a lot of ground above, and hopefully, you will better understand the size and scale that crude oil plays in our everyday lives.

Frankly, it is a vital resource and one that we will rely on for some time. While it may never technically run out, it will become so scarce at some point that it will be, effectively, depleted.

While we can never know when that day may come, it is prudent that many industries explore methods of replacing crude oil-based raw materials before they are forced to.

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