Why are we still burning oil?

A lot of people think that we are utterly dependent on burning oil for energy for our modern existence, but this is patently untrue. One example of potential independence is biodiesel. I own two diesels (a car and a truck) and I put biodiesel into them when I can, but it costs significantly more than petroleum diesel. This is due to the tax breaks given to Big Oil, and the fact that no one is paying for the major externality of burning petrofuels, carbon dioxide. The US government proved at Sandia NREL in the 1980s that producing biodiesel from algae grown in open raceway ponds was not only feasible, but that it should be profitable with diesel fuel retailing at $3/gallon.

We could easily replace our diesel fuel consumption with only a relatively small amount of land. Unfortunately, virtually all the land not already in use that is useful for this process is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, and they have approved only a tiny portion of renewable energy projects proposed for BLM land even when it is shown to be beneficial. What chance is there to undertake a massive project like replacing a significant portion of our diesel consumption with biodiesel from algae? At least there's still biodiesel from animal fat, which ought to become more attractive to the processed foods industry over time.

Biodiesel is not the only direct-replacement biofuel which we know how to produce. We can actually replace gasoline with a 1:1 biofuel replacement as well: butyl alcohol, known as butanol. BP and DuPont collectively own a shell company called Butamax which holds patents necessary to cost-effectively make Butanol, a 1:1 replacement for gasoline which reduces emissions, but instead of making it they sue the other significant patent-holder to prevent them from doing so.

Making fuel out of oil is almost as stupid as making it out of topsoil. Oil is too valuable as a feedstock for plastics for that to be a sane action. When plastics are made from oil using energy from renewable sources, the result is that most of the carbon sequestered in the oil is trapped in the plastics. While it takes significant energy, it is possible to recycle any and all plastics with a single process which again may be powered by renewable sources, including direct solar thermal.

Finally, even our need for natural gas can be addressed without fracking, which is essentially the only cost-effective way we currently have to increase natural gas "production" as we know it today. Instead of accessing new sources of natural gas from the ground, we can make it from organic matter. One notable source of this matter is human waste which can be collected and processed without any effort on the part of the average person or changes to the plumbing in your home by diverting it into special ponds from which clean water and methane are collected. Methane can be used anywhere natural gas or propane is now used with only trivial equipment changes similar to converting an appliance between natgas and propane. As well, there is significant plant waste which we are now burning, or chipping and permitting to decompose into byproducts including methane, and we can be capturing it with simple technology. We can also use the technology to process animal waste, which decreases the biological load making it safer, and also producing methane at the same time. Complete commercial solutions exist to perform this function on a significant scale.

In summary, there exist renewable biological solutions for replacing all of our current fuel needs with "green" replacements. There is no reason nor excuse for our current system but greed. We must change these facts if we are to move forward without destroying the ecosphere upon which we depend.