We have come to depend on petroleum for nearly everything. The globalization of the economy depends upon the so-called fossil fuels to transport goods all around the world. But it is not just fuel used in the transportation sector, it is ubiquitous; the petrochemical industries (responsible for the manufacture & development of plastics), the energy sector, the pharmaceutical industry (guess what the gel-capsules are made of), and even the food industry all depend upon petroleum and/or natural gas. We would not be able to grow the amount of food needed to feed even a quarter of the world's population without the natural gas used in fertilizers.
Petroleum and Natural Gas have become levers in international politics. Wars are fought over it; the burning of these fuels contributes to climate change that has many a scientist, politician, and citizen sprouting gooseflesh when they ponder the repercussions; indigenous rights are violated by oil corporations ravaging their lands. Proof of this consists of the war in Iraq, and the recent softwood-lumber dispute between Canada and the United States. After violating the NAFTA treaty by imposing heavy tariffs on imported lumber from Canada, the United States has been found in contempt of that treaty by an independent agency. Yet they still refuse to retract the tariffs. Canada is now threatening to cut back its oil sales to the United States, and our leaders are investigating selling more to China and India. With the second largest reserves in the world, Canada is sitting pretty, although the way reserves are calculated has recently come under fire by geologists.
A strange anomaly in petroleum science however, is the generally accepted view of petroleum as being organic in origin. This view contends that petroleum originates when biological matter decomposes, especially in locales such as large river deltas, where peat swamps form. However, decades ago a group of Soviet scientists determined that hydrocarbons, the molecules that make up petroleum, cannot form in such geologically shallow environments. Using thermodynamics, they concluded that the formation of hydrocarbons requires pressure found only in deeper enviroments, such as the earth's mantle, where no biological matter likely ends up according to present tectonic theory. Russia and China are currently the only countries using this science to look for new reserves, and Russia has recently found huge new reserves near the Caspian Sea. This may indicate a long-term shift of power from the United States to China and Russia.