Study – Up to 131 years to replace oil with renewable, sustainable alternatives

It could take another 130 for alternative techologies to replace based upon our current pace of research and development.

Dependent upon foreign oil for many decades to come

At least from a market perspective

“At the current pace of research and development, replacing gasoline and diesel with renewable fuel alternatives could take some 131 years, according to a new University of California, Davis, study using a new sustainability forecasting approach based on market expectations,” reiterates GreenCarCongress this late morning.

Yet peak oil according to the study should occur somewhere between now and 2030, and America is nowhere near ready.

Previous estimates, according to the researchers, have pegged 2040 as the time frame when alternatives could start to viably replace oil. However, the researchers suggest that some previous studies could be “overly optimistic about the diffusion of new technologies” and, coupled with new extraction techniques and crude supplies, it might take longer for new technologies to compete, at least in the markets.

Ultimately, the researchers are trying to use market expectations – basically the stock market – as a barometer of change. Based on that barometer, or on market expectations, a major move to alternatives is not expected for many decades. Quite simply, the money to support such a change isn't available in the markets and only government policy can change that.

As a result, if peak oil, or some other decline in petroleum availability hit the world somewhat unexpectedly, the world would not be able to react quickly enough. Consequently, the pace of our current research and development is therefore akin to playing Russian roulette, and the researchers suggest much greater policy actions are required.

Sadly, this is a point I've been stuck on a for a couple years now, as more and more data has become available. Despite the hype around plug-in vehicles, the facts demonstrate quite clearly that current battery technologies are not cost-effectively viable,  and will not become cost-effective without significant technological breakthroughs, regardless of scale and manufacturing improvements. Even if those breakthroughs were achieved today, it could still take many decades to implement, especially since the legacy effect of today's gas guzzlers impacts America's oil dependence for decades.

I am not a plug-in hater or cynic, as many assume, far from it in fact. However, current automaker efforts on plug-ins are more about greenwashing in the interim than actual change, and most automakers have essentially admitted that fact. Thus, now is not the time for happy, pat ourselves on the back complacency. Over and over the science continues to validate our lack of real progress, with some studies, such as this one, casting an even greater shadow of doubt on the timely viability of real change.

How long until we demand more?

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