‘Ready Player One’ envisions a world without oil

Imagine a world where a global energy crisis has left us without cars to drive. Motor vehicles sit abandoned in junk piles, and on the sides of roads, because there is no more oil left to fuel them.

Electricity powered by fossil fuels is no more, and the entire planet is living in a dystopian reality where basic resources are nearly unattainable and the quality of life has severely deteriorated.

No one drives on roads anymore, and the freedom of owning a car — once a staple of the American experience — is gone. With nowhere else to go, Americans escape to a virtual universe, the Oasis, to find joy and meaning.

This is the plot of “Ready Player One,” the Steven Spielberg film that opened in theaters Thursday. Sci-fi fans have been eagerly awaiting the film since it was announced in 2010, before the novel by Ernest Cline was even published.

But is the fictional world portrayed in “Ready Player One” really so far away? This reality might be closer than we think, if we continue to rely only on foreign oil and don’t take advantage of cheaper, cleaner, American-made domestic resources.

Director Steven Spielberg.

In the book, a young hero emerges to save us all from the horrifying future created by our own unwillingness to prepare for a global energy crisis. But we might have already found that hero here at home — in the form domestically produced alcohol fuels.

Ethanol burns one-third cleaner than gasoline, and it can be made from a wide variety of agriculture byproducts. Corn, sugar, even old candy can be made into ethanol. Ethanol can be used to fuel the cars we drive in the same way we use gasoline, but at a much cheaper cost to both our pocketbooks and the environment.

Today, about 20 million vehicles are already flex-fuel capable, meaning that they can run on any combination of gasoline or ethanol, up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). Most drivers who have a flex-fuel vehicle aren’t even aware that they have a choice of fuels. (To find out whether your vehicle is an FFV, visit our “Check Your Car” interactive feature. You can also learn more about alt-fuels and find a station near you that sells them.)

If you see the film, think about the ways in which we can prevent the worst impacts in store for the human race, many of which stem from our dependence on oil for transportation. The choices we make today can alter the script we write for ourselves.

And one way or the other, we still get to keep our virtual reality games!


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