America (and the west for that matter) is in a pickle over oil. Why? Because we depend on it. Yet, there is only several dependencies.
- Electricity consumption. This is easily replaceable by Nukes, Alternatives and even Coal. IOW, oil is not really needed for this.
- Home heating. Again, we have alternatives for home heating by the use of ground based heat pumps (great for cooling too), natural gas, solar, and even electricity.
- Chemical production. This is not the mainstay of oil, but there are no alternatives. In this case, it would be in the interest of the west (as well as most of the rest of the world) to have the price of oil plummet because it is used for only chemical production.
- Finally, transportation. This is our Achilles heal.
Transportation is our weakness. At this time, America (and even more so, canada) is spread all over. Worse, we have a minimal infrastructure to support an alternative transportation. In Europe, the companies are intermixed with homes. Many people either walk or take the bus. Big difference. We need an easy alternative to the car, but the entire infrastructure is geared around wheeled vehicles. So what can be done different? Simple; do not depend on a oil based automobile.
Our real problem is that Detroit (and Europe with Japan) is building oil based automobiles. Even the new hybrids are being built all around an oil economy. What is needed for them to survive is a hybrid that works along the lines of train; vehicles with electric motors, a small bank of batteries (enough for say 5-20 miles), and then a empty engine bay. The bay could then hold a number of different energy. The first item in there should be an E85 compliant gas generator. Why? because then it can burn either gas or ethanol mix. The nice thing about that is that for a plain car the generator will need to be on the order of 20K or better. That means that a car can then power a house during an electrical outage (think hurricane, earthquake, or tornado outages) or at a job site (such as construction).
Of course, One might be more batteries. In particular, this would be attractive to somebody who does not drive but say 30-50 miles one way in a day i.e. a house wife or a city person. This person could then recharge at home or at work.
Finally, another might be a fuel cell as these come on-line. So what is the real advantage? Society would not have to undergo massive change to accommodate switching to different energy. All in all, only the refuel point would have issues. But this would mean that we could easily switch to what ever is the cheapest to run.