Sunday, April 22, 2018

Patient Zero

My contribution to EARTH DAY

The Texas Chronicle
April 22, 2038
by Max Stamp

Few took notice of a story back in 2016 when a team of Japanese scientists sifting through plastic waste found bacteria capable of breaking down and “eating” one of the world’s most popular plastics ― polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. It was hailed as a potential breakthrough at the time.

But in a new twist, British and American scientists have announced that while studying this bacteria, they accidentally created a mutant enzyme that’s even more efficient at breaking down plastic bottles.

The discovery came as a team of scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S. examined an enzyme produced by the Japanese bacteria to find out more about its structure. By shining intense beams of X-rays on it, 10 billion times brighter than the sun, they were able to see individual atoms. Manipulating the structure to better understand how it worked, they accidentally engineered the mutant enzyme.

It was seen as a great opportunity to begin to break down the swirling bogs of bottles and plastic sacks that were beginning to become problematic in our oceans and waterways.

So in the spring of 2022, with great fanfare, implementation of the Clean Oceans Project began.  A large fleet of tankers moved into the south Pacific where a large accumulation of pollution had grown to several thousand square miles.  Tanker ships from all over the world participated in the global effort to help eliminate one of the greatest legacies of over a hundred years of affordable and plentiful oil supplies.

Millions of tons of the now mutated bacteria was released by Dow, BASF, and even ExxonMobil. Virtually every shipper of global oil supplies participated in the effort to clean our oceans from our reckless indifference towards them.  Within a few months, the results were encouraging.  The mass of bottles and plastic sacks began to decompose at a rapid rate and then fall deep into the ocean where it would further decompose and become relatively harmless to ocean marine systems.

The combined scientific panel at the United Nations (IGPOO) published a preliminary report declaring the initiative a scientific success and recommended that other trouble spots in the Indian Ocean be treated with the same protocols.

The world scientific community was almost giddy with success.

Then late in 2026, an odd report came out of Saudi Arabia. Even though Saudi reserves were still quite strong, production from the Kingdom dropped about 10% from 9 million bpd to a little over 8 mbpd.

It seemed that some of their older wells and especially the mighty Garwar area had seen its fine quality crude  become more tarlike and more difficult to pump and to refine. One area was closed off completely and was reportedly quarantined.

The next year, production in the Saudi oil fields again declined but they also declined in Azerbaijan. Production in Qater was off.  Then in 2028, the price of Brent crude  ticked up from 90.00 dollars a barrel to $120.  This was the highest price seen in the markets since the 2014 oil price collapse.

The next year production went down everywhere, including Russia and in the US, and prices increased again to $140.00; as they would for the next 10 years, closing this year at $240.00.

It seems that when the over 300 tankers used in the UN's Clean Ocean Project went back to work moving oil from one point on earth to the next,  they took in sea water for ballast after delivering the jacked up bacteria to the south Pacific experimental operation and the other sites. When they arrived at the oil terminals, the ships discharged that bacteria tainted water into the waterways of every major oil channel on earth, thus infecting the earth's oil producing facilities with uncanny epidemiological precision.

The mutant bacteria, hungry to eat even more hydrocarbon chains mutated again as it prospered in the polluted oilways of Earth's petrochemical complex. How it got upstream into the oil reserves themselves is still a mystery.  It's as if the bacteria knew where the oil was. Some speculate that climate change activists somehow engineered the entire event.

Whether brought about through serendipity, stupidity, or guile, the events that have transpired are breathtaking in their influence on human culture. Global oil reserves within a decade became unavailable.

Because of the high price of oil and the reduced price of advanced electric transportation, coupled with the continued reductions in price of solar cells and wind power, renewable powered state of the art EV's became ubiquitous.  In many cities and countries, laws and milestones to outlaw internal combustion engines were met years ahead of schedule.

But not only have most cars and trucks become electric drive vehicles, the vast majority drive themselves.  This has led to a 50% reduction in vehicles on the roads with all new highway projects canceled or deferred. Many deliveries are handled through small delivery bots and drones.

The air in Bejing is now better than Boulder's.

The transition that occured in the blink of an eye in the early 1900's as human kind moved from horses to horsepower was reversed in another wink of an eye in this century because of bacteria.

Oil reserves were simply too thick to remove as they became tar pits.

For the first time in 150 years, parts per million of CO2 have actually dropped from 450 ppm to 448 as the Earth has grown a beard of carbon life.  It's projected that our carbon molecule needs for fiber and construction will come from these renewable stores of carbon.

As if some alien smart bomb went off, humankind moved from a culture of consumption to a new age of wisdom and opportunity.

Or maybe Mother Earth simply decided to take our gasoline away.

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