Might As Well Face It
We’re Addicted to Oil
Everyone realizes petroleum products are used to power our cars and in the heating oil some of us use to keep our houses warm. In fact, In the United States, in contrast to other regions of the world, about 2/3 of all oil use is for transportation. But did you also know petroleum-based components are in most everything else we use, including the medicines we take, the food we eat, the plastics that we depend on in all kinds of products we use, and even in the clothes we wear? And, did you know that nearly 5% of oil consumed in the U.S. is used to make plastics, and our food system is heavily dependent upon oil-pehaps as much as an average of 400 gallons of oil each year per US resident?
This week, make a list of some of the products you use that contain petroleum. Then, make a companion list of what alternatives you have to those products. Finally, identify steps you and your household can take to reduce your dependence on oil. Read the Long Fingers of Petroleum, a short, fun article at EnergyBulletin.net to get you started.
Did You Know…
- Global oil production has leveled off to about 85 million barrels per day. The U.S. Energy Information Service estimates that world demand for oilwill increase to 117 million barrels per day by 2030.
- The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve has a maximum capacity of 770 million barrels of oil. With a U.S. demand of 12 million barrels of oil per day, that is equivalent to a 58-day supply.
- The Energy Information Agency (EIA) projects that allowing off-shore drilling would have no impact in the near-term, since it will be close to a decade before the first oil can be extracted from the currently protected offshore areas.
- An increasing number of experts believe that liquid petroleum production will peak at between 85 and 95 million barrels per day before 2012 and then decline.
- If Congress had continued to increase fuel efficiency standards over the last 22 years, the U.S. would currently have more than 16 times the savings in oil consumption than current proposals to drill in offshore areas promise in the next 20 years.
- According to the International Energy Agency, 37% of the CO2 emissions released from burning fossil fuels are attributed to oil.
The recent Deepwater Horizon tragedy resulted in the death of 11 workers; a wetlands and marine ecology devastated by crude and toxic dispersant; the lost livelihoods of Louisiana fishermen; and a $30 billion hit to BP shareholders. This horrific disaster ought to cause us to think about the enormous depths at which the petroleum industry is forced to operate. BP was drilling for Macondo, a tiny field containing less than 12 hours’ global consumption, under a mile of water tells us all we need to know about the state of oil depletion.
There is a fundamental reluctance to seriously confront the social, environmental and economic dangers of our dependence on fossil fuels, and to accept the probability that we entering a new era – one where an ever-increasing demand and competition for oil is eclipsing our ability to produce it. Such is the mindset of the addict.
Only when we begin to finally realize how pervasive oil is in our everyday lives, and how much risk – both human and environmental- is involved in oil extraction and combustion, will we understand exactly how much the human race must change in order to do without it.
“Business as usual” will continue to bring rich rewards to a relative few who have access to and interest in the remaining supplies of petroleum. But for those who look beyond short-term profits for investor’s and consider the health and survival of future generations, the specter of a rapidly-changing climate and an oil-addicted economy demand that we move as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels. The longer we delude ourselves that we can continue to live beyond the bounds of sustainability, the more severe will be the social, economic and environmental consequences.