Petroleum is now so deeply entrenched in our economy, our politics, and our personal expectations that even modest efforts to phase it out are fought tooth and nail by the most powerful forces in the world: companies and governments that depend on oil revenues; the developing nations that see oil as the only means to industrial success; and a Western middle class that refuses to modify its energy-dependent lifestyle. But within thirty years, by even conservative estimates, we will have burned our way through most of the oil that is easily accessible.
And well before then, the side effects of an oil-based society—economic volatility, geopolitical conflict, and the climate-changing impact of hydrocarbon pollution—will render fossil fuels an all but unacceptable solution. How will we break our addiction to oil? And what will we use in its place to maintain a global economy and political system that are entirely reliant on cheap, readily available energy?