The importance of petroleum in modern civilization presents the world with a dilemma.
On one hand, we have come to rely on large, consistent, instantly available supplies of fuel derived from petroleum for almost all our cars, trucks, trains, boats and airplanes. Many homes use oil for heating, and we use petroleum-based chemicals to produce many of the products of our daily life, from our home furnishings to the clothes on our backs. In addition, economic growth in more countries around the world is demanding more petroleum, driving oil prices higher.
At the same time, we in the U.S. have been faced for several decades with a disconcerting dependence on foreign sources for oil. We have an increasing understanding that potentially harmful global climate change could result from our massive use of petroleum. And we know that petroleum is finite as a resource. It will eventually have to be replaced by other sources of energy, possibly at considerably higher cost than we are paying today and perhaps sooner than we like to think.
Given our current petroleum predicament, how do we successfully transition to cleaner, sustainable fuel(s)?