A World Without Oil


One of the main aspects that Paolo Bacigalupi included in his vision of a 23rd century Bangkok in his novel The Wind Up Girl is that the world’s supply of crude oil and natural gas has long since run out. Power is provided by ever decreasing stores of coal (which does nothing for the rampant global warming – rising sea levels threaten the very existence of Bangkok throughout the novel), methane, elephants or good old fashioned pedal power. It’s a grim vision, if I’m going to be honest.

It’s also a vision with a very firm basis in reality. Coal, oil and natural gas are wholly finite resources and global authorities appear to have paid very little attention to what they will do when the inevitable happens. It’s almost as if they are in denial. The planet also cannot rely on nuclear power – quite aside from issues of safety and waste disposal, uranium and plutonium are also finite resources and will themselves run out eventually. What then?

The energy situation is not something that can be dismissed for future generations to sort out when the infrastructure needs to be laid now – and we really do need to be looking at renewables or sustainable sources of energy, such as solar power, wind power or hydropower. The specifics will need to depend on the country’s needs, but they are certainly things that can be developed and adapted alongside the changing climate.

I’m told that wind farms are ugly. Personally, compared to the average power station, I think they’re quite beautiful. It is a little unfortunate that in this day and age we really do have to consider them a necessity – unless you want to be the person paid to pedal constantly for eight hours a day to power someone else’s fridge?


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