Where we are now
Traffic in London
At the moment, oil is being used to power most of our vehicles, making us all dependent on it in some way - to get our food, to go to work, to see our loved ones.
There are millions of cars, buses, trucks, ships and planes moving around our cities, countryside, oceans and skies, connecting people and moving stuff around the world. But these vehicles need millions of gallons of oil to keep them going every day. And that’s taking a toll on the air we breathe, our security, our economy, our environment and our climate.
The new oil rush
Easy-to-reach oil has now virtually run out.
Rather than face up to this and start diverting their enormous resources into alternative energy sources that won’t pollute the planet and contribute to climate change, oil companies have chosen instead to go to greater and greater extremes to squeeze the last drops of oil from the earth. This new ‘oil rush’ has seen them scraping the barrel in the tar sands of Canada, risking lives and marine life in deep ocean waters and now threatens the pristine and fragile Arctic wilderness.
Towing icebergs out of the path of deepwater drilling in the Arctic
If these places are exploited and the oil burnt, we will be on track for a six degree rise in average global temperatures. Two degrees is generally accepted by scientists and governments as the 'tipping point' of dangerous climate change.
Scientists say a rise of six degrees would have cataclysmic, irreversible consequences for the planet and threaten the basis of human civilisation, not to mention its effects on other species and habitats.
This is the path we are on right now. But if we stop new drilling in remote and risky parts of the world, while transforming our transport system, this doesn’t have to be the path we follow.
What it's costing us
Billions of pounds are going into oil companies through our banks, taxes and pension funds. That means that our money is being used to finance the rush for increasingly risky oil deposits. And keep us stuck in the oil age.
Our governments are also supporting oil companies with tax breaks and subsidies that allow them to exploit and pollute the natural world.
Ironically, many of us are also giving them money though our pensions. Many of the biggest pension funds are heavily invested in oil, which has traditionally been seen as a safe investment that guaranteed high returns. But oil may not be the safe bet it once was - the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico forced BP to cancel a dividend payment to its shareholders and investors are becoming increasingly aware of the huge risks associated with frontier oil.
And costing the Earth
In the long run, our addiction to oil will cost us far more money than it makes.
If we do nothing, climate change will cost us around 20 per cent of total gross domestic product (GDP) over the next half century. That's more than the cost of both world wars and the great depression put together. But if we act now to mitigate it, the cost would only be about one per cent of total economic growth. That's the same amount of money we spend on global advertising. Surely protecting the planet is more important than billboards and TV adverts.
Where we need to go - beyond oil
If we let the oil industry lead us down their preferred path towards ever-increasing oil consumption, the results will inevitably be vast environmental damage and global temperature rise that take us well beyond what’s safe for our planet.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Instead of chasing the last drops of dirty oil, we could be leading the world into a clean energy future.
Many of the solutions are already out there. Others need greater political support and investment to make them happen.
We will need to embrace new technologies, increase car efficiency, improve public transport and be better organised so we don’t have to make unnecessary journeys. Ultimately we need to transition to a zero carbon transport system where pretty much all our vehicles run on electricity, powered by the sun, sea and wind - energy that won’t run out. In the meantime we need to start reducing the amount of oil we use.
We're campaigning for a world beyond oil - a world that's cleaner, healthier and more peaceful. This won't happen overnight – oil is too deeply engrained in the way our world works for it to be a quick change. But the clean energy age will bring many benefits to our lives, cleaner air, increased energy security and new jobs.