It is happening slowly as we speak. There are other alternatives out there but most of them are cost prohibitive for an individual to use. It will have to take a conversion from oil to other sources at the national, state or at least municipal level to make it available to all.
We know that we will run out of oil eventually. There are many advancements being made right now to prepare the world for this.
I think it depends on whether we ran out of oil very quickly or if happened very slowly over time. If we ran out very quickly we would be in big trouble. I think the economy would crash and it would be devastating.
If it were happening slowly then we would have time to prepare for it and it would not be as bad.
Oil has yielded such immense profits and become the basis for so many economies that it continues to be our energy source just because of inertia. These companies will do anything to protect that source of riches. Once the resource begins to dry up though, the same forces that led them to protect oil will lead them to other sources, hopefully cleaner, more renewable ones, and then they will protect those energy sources just as dearly. The good news is we have the money to invest in new infrastructure, and the ingenuity and technology to invent it.
I agree with bullgatortail, big oil and big government are repsonsible for ensnaring the American public into believing oil is the answer. Converting one's life into a solar lifetyle would be cost prohibitive for the people who could probably benefit most--those socio/economic groups in the low to middle range. The government spent trillions to bail out big business, it seems as if it would be prudent to help society find a more cost efficient way to prepare for a greener future.
We have had the technology to build electric cars for decades, but the world has chosen not to take this seemingly sensible step. Between electric cars, solar heating and other alternative fuel sources, the need for oil could be reduced to a trickle if big government interests--particularly oil companies and auto makers--were denied the power they now display.
This would be a huge problem if we do not have other sources of energy in common use by the time we ran out of oil. If we did not, there would no longer be good ways to transport goods (especially food) from place to place. Our whole way of civilization as it now is would be in jeopardy.
Oil is a very important source of energy in the world which is used for many different purposes including generating electric power, heating of homes and other buildings, providing mechanical power for operating may different kinds of equipments particularly all types of small and large vehicles, and for cooking. Living without oil not only means reduced availability of energy, it also means increasing complexity and cost combined with reduced effectiveness of many equipments operated by oil.
In addition, life without oil is not just a fanciful thought to exercise our imagination and to amuse ourselves. The running out of all the oil resources in the world in next 50 years or so is possibility with very high level of probability. If we want to sustain our existing level of lifestyle and standard of living we will be forced to find ways to power the wheels of industry and live our private lives without using oil.