The issue of weaning our world off oil is so much more complex than simply converting to electric vehicles, solar panels on our homes, or wind farms. We depend on oil for almost everything we use in our daily lives. Until we completely change manufacturing and the materials we use in everyday products, oil companies will continue to drill for oil.
A forty-two-gallon barrel of crude oil yields approximately 19 gallons of gasoline for our cars. Some of the remaining oil is used to produce jet fuel. The remaining oil is used to manufacture the more than six thousand products that we use every day. That includes plastic garbage bags, plastic single use bottles, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, almost everything inside your car, the tires on cars and bicycles, the asphalt we drive on, most toys, computers, flat screen TVs, cell phone cases, crayons, lipsticks, shower caps, paint, boots, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and almost everything used in a hospital. I could go on, but I believe the point has been made.
Our reliance on petroleum products is rarely, if ever discussed. What’s the reason for that? If it was front and center, it would call into question all those who demand the end of drilling immediately. Activists don’t care about anything other than what they are laser focused on. They have a vision, and nothing can be allowed to call that vision into question. But we need to start demanding answers for what will replace all of the products that we rely upon daily, if and when, we make the transition to green energy alternatives. We can’t just play it by ear and hope it all works out. For example, wooden toothbrushes are an alternative to plastic toothbrushes. Now we just need to figure out how to replace the other thousands of products.
We know there’s climate change and we know that we need to end our reliance on the burning of fossil fuels. The climate as well as the air we breathe, is dependent upon us transforming our energy supplies. However, that is a gradual process, and we will continue to move in that direction over time. Afterall, petroleum is a finite resource. Everything I have been able to ascertain regarding supply, points to approximately 50 years remaining of crude oil in the ground yet to be drilled. That’s not a long time in the scheme of things. A blip when referring to history. Therefore, innovators need to be discovering replacements materials, naturally sourced, and renewable, so that we can end our reliance on petroleum.
No system functions better than capitalism when it comes to innovation. When riches and rewards are at stake, people and companies step up their game. Companies need to be challenged and rewarded for that innovation. It’s the reason that Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were able to so quickly develop vaccines to fight Covid. It wasn’t born from altruism or the decency of humanity. These pharmaceutical companies made billions of dollars from the vaccines. The same will happen for clean energy and new ways to manufacture, once the profit is there. To idealists, it may seem cynical but that’s simply the way it works.
Scientists and activists need to finally start addressing our dependence on petroleum beyond the burning of fossil fuels. It’s not enough to simply coin phrases like Climate Crisis and Climate Emergency. They make for a specific narrative but offer little in substance. The country and the world need to know and understand the enormity and complexity of transforming our world, beyond simply discussing the 1.5C threshold we so often read about. We need to take an all-encompassing multi-faceted approach to climate change, so that we can prepare for the enormous changes to all our lives.