When we take something for granted, it often has a tendency to gradually fade away. But this is not true for our most important energy resource. Despite the fact we take for granted the countless ways petroleum is used in our daily lives, neither oil demand nor consumption are likely to fade away any time soon.
Over the course of history, oil has provided societies with a multitude of uses, but, within this past millennium alone, consumption of (and demand for) oil has catapulted to prolific levels and a price tag to match.
Some elementary knowledge about the subject can be found at energy4me.org, which says, “Oil and natural gas together make up petroleum, which is Latin for ‘rock oil.’ Petroleum is a dark, oily substance (comprised of decomposed remains of once-living organisms) that is typically liquid, but it can also be solid or gaseous. When it comes straight out of the ground as a liquid, it is called crude oil if it is dark and sticky, and condensate if clear and volatile (evaporates easily).”
When solid it is called asphalt, and when semisolid, bitumen. Natural gas can be found with oil or on its own. Resembling “goo” (a highly scientific term), it is truly a complex mix of chemicals, which can be separated through refining, and then used to formulate a massive range of different substances.
According to the EIA (United States Energy Information System), North Americans consume nearly 24 million barrels of oil each day—one third of all petroleum produced globally. This number is four times the consumption rate of both Central and South America, and is again true for the Middle East. It is nearly twice that consumed by Europe in its entirety.
Now considering North America produces 14 million barrels per day, our oil production deficit is obvious and should cause us all sleepless nights.
In an attempt to insert some sense of reality into such profound statistics, we must contemplate individually our personal consumption of oil and the subsequent products derived from it.
A realistic ten-page listing by PBS.org provides a shocking, yet inarguable assortment of daily examples that all of us are familiar with and use without the slightest consideration or fleeting thought about how doing so impacts our global oil demand, our resources, and the subsequent cost of sustaining such gross measures of consumption.
This massive list includes a wide variety of items: agriculture products, clothing and textiles, office supplies and electronics, gaming and sporting goods, kitchen and household items, beauty supplies and baby needs, automotive supplies and home furnishings.
All of us living in contemporary societies, with its modern conveniences, are guilty of propagating the devastating issue of overconsumption. The fact is we are slowly devouring our future resources well in advance of our abilities to develop realistic solutions and reliable reserves. The results are evident in the burgeoning price of oil.
Rather than curb our reliance on manufactured oil products, we continue to fulfill our insatiable consumerist appetites. Driven by our lifestyle and culture, we strive to own cutting-edge technology, to possess faster vehicles, to build larger homes with (less natural) and more synthetic gadgets, appliances, and possessions (even though many are recycled). There is no end to our desires to wear the newest fashions and travel farther from home than the year before.
We take for granted that there is a solution for every problem and believe that with time, money, and ingenuity, every problem will be solved.
Fracking is a metaphorical example of technology at the forefront of squeezing extra water from a dry sponge—the technology driven (literally) by the demand for oil.
In our efforts to extract the maximum quota from a well site, the technology of fracking is its own witness to how increased energy is applied to extract more energy and from its very source. This self-fulfilling cycle may seem somewhat futile, but it is, however, evidence of progress.
A backward glance at history (even as far back as the Stone Age) shows that bitumen was revered as “black gold” (energy4me.org). The sticky black substance was used to waterproof roofs, ignite flaming arrows, and as an application in the process of mummification. In the Victorian Era, oil became better known as a reliable energy source for lighting and grew into the dependable fuel source it remains today.
Nowadays, many shades of the “black” gold are shifting to “green” as technology advances on conservation and sustainability. Nonetheless, statistics prove our reliance on black is advancing at staggering rates and with no end in sight.
As these technological advances continue, so will our needs persist for all that is black and for it to include every shade of grey. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to take ownership of our obsessive and unconscious need to consume; we must become aware of what we are doing before the lack of black engulfs the world in blackness.
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